COLUMBIA — The trees are quickly losing their leaves. The temperature is dropping.
Most people look at this cold, wintry weather as a bad thing.
Not Missouri sophomore Kim English. To him, the cold weather means one thing and one thing only: basketball season.
“As I was walking into the arena. I felt a snow flake. And then smiled ... Snow just means basketball season is Hheerrreeeee,” English posted to his Twitter account Tuesday.
Players on the Missouri men’s basketball team, which begins practice Friday, are eager to begin the season. As coach Mike Anderson said at the Tigers' media day Wednesday, the players might be more ready to finish their rigorous offseason conditioning. But that doesn’t mean they are ready for practice.
“Nobody goes at it like we do,” Anderson said.
Junior Justin Safford was almost at a loss for words when describing the conditioning program.
“It’s a lot of running. I can’t really explain it,” he said. “It’s pretty intense.”
The Tigers received a little bit of extra motivation Wednesday. For the second consecutive season, coaches in the Big 12 Conference picked the Tigers to finish seventh in the conference. The coaches were way off last year; the Tigers finished the season with 31 wins, a Big 12 tournament championship and a trip to the Elite Eight.
Despite the coaches ranking the Tigers seventh, Anderson has no hard feelings.
“They probably should’ve ranked us last after everything we lost,” Anderson said modestly. “That’s just somebody’s opinion.”
The players don’t think playing the underdog role will make things easier on the team.
“We still have a target on our back,” Safford said. “People still know who we are.”
DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence were the Tigers top three scorers last season. All are now playing professional basketball. Finding players to fill that void in scoring is something Anderson is still unsure about.
“That’s the million dollar question,” Anderson said.
Meanwhile, the Tigers expect to give opponents headaches once again with their up-tempo defensive style. Senior J.T. Tiller, co-defensive player of the year in the Big 12 last season, will lead the way for the Tigers defensively. Anderson knows the defensive mind-set his teams usually have will help shore up the potential scoring woes.
“Our defense will create some easy offense,” Anderson said. “Those guys have shown they are capable of that.”
All of the accolades for the 2008-09 team were nice but they mean little to the 2009-10 Tigers. However, the seven Tigers who saw their first action last season gained some valuable experience.
“We’re ready to work, we’re ready to battle,” English said. “We’re ready to win some games. We’re just ready to play.”
This year's Missouri basketball team would like to be playing when the trees are getting greener and temperatures begin heating up.
Anderson said, “We’re looking forward to building what we already started.”