Haith says hard work will pay off for Missouri men's basketball team

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 | 6:27 p.m. CST; updated 5:13 p.m. CST, Thursday, November 22, 2012

COLUMBIA — Turkey, beautiful weather and pristine beaches were the last things on the mind of Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith after the Tigers defeated Nicholls State on Friday.

He said his focus is on improving his team's effort in time for this week's Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

Battle 4 Atlantis First Round

No. 13 Missouri (3-0) vs. Stanford (3-0)

WHEN: 12 noon CST
Paradise Islands, The Bahamas

"Well there's nothing else man, besides basketball," Haith said with a smile after being asked what he looked forward to the most about the upcoming tournament.

Tigers guard Earnest Ross said there was a lot of work to be done before the team plays last season's National Invitational Tournament champion Stanford in the first round on Thanksgiving.

Haith said he thinks there are three things the team needs to improve on before the start of the tournament.

"If we're physically blocking people out, if we're diving on the floor for loose balls and if we're rotating and taking charges, we're going to be a very good team," Haith said. "Those are things everybody can do. We still are not great at those things."

Taking charges is something Haith puts great emphasis on. He has repeatedly said one of the most important aspects to last year's team was former guard Kim English's ability to draw offensive fouls. When English left for the NBA, he not only took his accurate shooting with him, but his knack for drawing charges. His departure left the Tigers looking for their next official crash dummy.

Even when Haith's players take charges in a game, he said he sees bad form. Haith said he swore he saw senior guard Keion Bell close his eyes while taking a charge against Nicholls State.

Senior Laurence Bowers said that in practices, if players jump out of the way to avoid getting hit, they face penalties.

"If you don't want to run, you got to (take charges) in practice," Bowers said.

With Missouri due to face top-tier teams like Louisville and Duke in this week's tournament, Haith said improved hustle from his players is necessary for victories, regardless of style points.

"That's the effort game; that's what we want our identity to be," Haith said.

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