July 1, 2008

Freshmen on the spot with Lawrence gone

The initial reaction to the news that Keon Lawrence was transferring was a collective "Why?" from the Missouri fan base. After the surprise wore off, the question became, "Who's next?"

Lawrence led the Tigers with 933 minutes played last year. He also took a team-high 307 shots, while scoring 11 points per game. While the replacement of Lawrence's production will likely be a group effort, three freshmen in particular now find themselves likely asked to contribute much more quickly.

"Now that (spot) is opened up, it gives us a way better chance to get playing time," said freshman point guard Miguel Paul. "That starting spot right now is open, so somebody's gonna have to come get it."

Paul is certainly a candidate. The Tigers did not figure to start a "true" point guard. Lawrence and J.T. Tiller were the returning backcourt players with experience and both had more qualities of a shooting guard than a pure point. If the minutes go to Paul, a lightning-quick, pass-first point guard from Florida, that would change.

However, the more natural fit as a replacement would be Marcus Denmon, who has many of the same attributes as Lawrence. He is about the same height, can put points on the board in a hurry and is a natural shooting guard.

"I just figured just to go in with the same outlook, trying to play hard and get as many minutes as I can to help this team out," Denmon said. "Now with Keon gone, everybody's gonna have to step up and contribute."

The Tigers will also lean even more heavily on frontcourt seniors Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll. That pair each averaged 13 points per game last season. No other returning player was in double digits.

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