Missouri basketball's Ricardo Ratliffe improves mental game

Thursday, January 19, 2012 | 9:01 p.m. CST; updated 9:24 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 19, 2012

COLUMBIA — Ricardo Ratliffe has the nation's highest field goal percentage, but he tries not to focus on that when he's below the basket. Instead, he thinks about successfully completing each and every play. 

Ratliffe, a 6-foot-8-inch senior forward, has been receptive to the Missouri men's basketball team’s new coaching staff, which has been working with him to develop not only his physical game but his mental stamina. 

“Ricardo will tell you, he’s hard on himself, and he’s had moments where he used to get down on himself throughout the game,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. “I think he’s grown in that regard and the concept of ‘next play.’”

Instead of dwelling on the previous play, Haith has encouraged Ratliffe to anticipate upcoming plays.

With the help of assistant coach Isaac Chew, Ratliffe has also been working on straightening his arm to improve his free throws. After every practice, he will shoot free throws until he makes 100 of them.

“It’s been paying off because I was 7-for-8 last game, and I plan on trying to keep that up,” Ratliffe said. “It’s just confidence, repetition and not trying to think too much when you’re at the line.”

Ratliffe has that same mentality about his 77.4 field goal percentage. He said he tries not to think about it and instead focus on finishing every play. And that seems to be working. He said that both he and Haith are surprised when he misses a shot.

Under Haith, Ratliffe said the Tigers’ game is more about running plays and scouting upcoming teams. With former head coach Mike Anderson, Ratliffe said it was always the “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” no matter who Missouri was playing. Now, the Tigers watch film and change their approach depending on the strengths and weaknesses they see in their previous performances and the strengths and weaknesses they see in their upcoming opponents.

Ratliffe said No. 5 Missouri’s game against No. 3 Baylor on Saturday will definitely be one to remember.

“Us being No. 5, them being No. 3, that’s going to bring a lot of hype to the game. A lot of people that don’t know much about Missouri basketball are probably going to find out because we’re playing Baylor,” Ratliffe said. “Especially with us being ranked this high, it’s probably going to be the most memorable game up to this part of my career.”

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