August 27, 2008

New faces look forward to a fresh start

How long does it take for a new coach to put his stamp on a program and truly make that program his? The Missouri basketball team says Mike Anderson's third year will be the first in which Tiger fans truly get a good look at the coach's vision.

Perhaps as important as anything the new faces can contribute on the floor will be the image they are attempting to repair for the hoops program as a whole. For the last several years, Mizzou basketball has made as many headlines for what it did wrong off the court as anything that happened on it.

"I think we've got a chance to be really good this year and I just feel like in the past, Mizzou basketball lately hasn't been," freshman Marcus Denmon said, stopping before stating what most already know. "We're trying to bring an uprise to our program."

Problems are often impossible to predict, but the older players like what they see in the newcomers.

"Really you can see the type of style he wants to play without all the distractions," Carroll said. "He's got the guys that are going to come in and work hard and go home, eat and sleep basketball, not be out all night partying."

A shot at some of the players who have come through in recent years? It certainly seems that way, but then again, perhaps it is warranted. Two players last year were removed from the program due to off-court legal incidents and multiple others were suspended in Anderson's second season.

"We promised coach Anderson that we're hear for books and basketball," freshman Kim English said. "We're not going to get in any trouble whatsoever. We're just here to win games and get degrees, flat out. That's all it should be."

All the youngsters say the transition, particularly off the court, has been relatively simple.

"It was a lot easier for all of us coming in being that we weren't the lone freshman or nothing like that. There are a lot of newcomers so they were going through the same things," Denmon said. "It was easy also because the older guys, they just accepted us right in and I think they've got the same vision as us trying to come in and turn the program around and get a lot better this year."

Anderson has never had to integrate so many new faces as a head coach. However, as an assistant at Arkansas, the Razorbacks lost nine players off a 1995 team that had made back-to-back national title appearances. He said the summer and early fall practices are invaluable to a team trying to get to know one another.

"That's what I think is key. They spent the whole summer up here," Anderson said. "Even as we come into practice, they're a little bit more familiar with each other than had they not done that. That shows the commitment of all these guys. Hopefully these seniors can be the leaders that these guys need."

Ultimately, the product on the court will determine the direction of the program. But the newcomers charged with steering the ship in a new direction around are looking forward to the opportunity.

"We just have something to look forward to the next four years," English said. "That's nice knowing that nobody's just one and done. We're all hard workers and we're here to stay and turn this program around."

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