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Missouri men's basketball begins practices under Frank Haith

Saturday, October 15, 2011 | 2:21 p.m. CDT; updated 11:27 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 20, 2011

COLUMBIA — While the rest of Columbia celebrated the 100th Homecoming at MU on Saturday, 14 Missouri basketball players were seemingly oblivious to the festivities.

About 100 people sacrificed the Homecoming Parade to visit Mizzou Arena on Saturday morning to observe the Missouri men's basketball team practice for only the second time under head coach Frank Haith. Missouri began practice Friday.

The sounds of snare drums, tractor engines and thousands of voices outside Mizzou Arena were drowned out by squeaky shoes, the bounces of a dozen basketballs and shouts of "Ball, ball, ball." 

Haith, who is under investigation by the NCAA for potential recruiting violations at the University of Miami, inherited a team from former coach Mike Anderson that returns all five starters and lost only one player, Justin Safford, to graduation.

Among those returning is senior Marcus Denmon, who averaged 16.9 points per game in 2010-11 and was named a preseason All-American by Blue Ribbon Magazine.

Missouri, however, will be without senior forward Laurence Bowers, who will miss the entire season with a torn ACL. Bowers was an honorable mention All Big-12 selection last season and will have one more year of eligibility. 

Haith and his coaching staff drilled the team for two hours in jump shots, ball movement and new offensive schemes.

One of the biggest adjustments for the team this season will be the defensive pressure, Haith said prior to Friday's practice. 

"We will have pressure, but we will not always have full-court pressure," Haith said at Friday's media day. "We don't need our big people getting in foul trouble."

Haith finished Saturday's practice with a series of scrimmages. The Gold team, which included Denmon, brothers Phil and Matt Pressey, Ricardo Ratliffe and Kim English, won two of the three scrimmages while Bowers stood courtside with crutches and encouraged his teammates. 

The team will cap off its first week of practice with the Black and Gold Game at 8 p.m. Friday at Mizzou Arena.

Missouri will open its season with the One State, One Spirit Classic against Missouri Southern at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 in Joplin to benefit victims of the tornado that struck the town on May 22.


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