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Leadership key for Tigers

Wednesday, November 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:13 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Eager for the comfort of game time, the Missouri men’s basketball team got its first taste of competition Monday night. The Tigers left feeling anything but satisfied.

After touting the Tigers’ newfound depth throughout the preseason, Missouri coach Quin Snyder said this year’s team wouldn’t face the same leadership questions it has in years past.

Snyder found himself in an unexpected position. Three of his newcomers, prospective point guards, watched the Tigers’ 85-76 win against Inter Hoop from the sidelines and in street clothes.

With Randy Pulley’s ineligibility and Spencer Laurie’s redshirt indefinite and Jason Conley out until Dec. 21 because of transfer rules, sophomore Jimmy McKinney steered the game at point.

Pulley’s predicament rests on three to six hours of transfer credits from Barton (Kan.) County Community College. He learned he would sit out Monday’s game a few days ago, but it’s unknown when Missouri’s certifying officer will clear him for competition.

“We were shorthanded this game with only eight guys, and I think that had a little effect on our substitution patterns,” Snyder said. “(Inter Hoop) was a great team because they spread the floor so well. They drive and kick, which forces our big guys to cover out on the floor.”

Despite backcourt uncertainties, the Tigers have four starting positions locked.

Seniors Josh Kroenke and All-American candidate Rickey Paulding will work the perimeter, and seasoned big men Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant will try to control the post.

Snyder said their energy is invaluable.

“When your best players are seniors, and they are diving, working hard and being emotional, that is terrific,” he said. “When (Johnson) is that fired up he is a great player. He needs to bring that every time and the effect it has on our team.”

RULES OF THE GAME: Even the most seasoned Tigers needed to make adjustments Monday night.

Two experimental rules made their debut at Hearnes Center. The NCAA Executive Committee implemented the international 3-point line distance and trapezoid lane.

The 3-point arc measures 19 feet, 9 inches from the center of the basket along the baseline. The new court extends the line 9 inches. With the guidelines for the trapezoid lane, the lines perpendicular to the free throw lane are stretched 3 feet, 11 inches on each side at the baseline. The current rectangular lane is 12 feet wide.

Kroenke said the trapezoid lane demanded more adjusting than 3-point line changes.

“Even though we didn’t get a chance to post up very much there in that zone a lot, I think it could play a role in man-to-man because you take Travon, Linas (Kleiza) and Kevin (Young) … (they) can’t post up close enough to the basket,” he said.

Snyder said the game tape will be the judge, but Johnson said the adjustments didn’t faze him in the low post.

“You can still post up and do what you want,” Johnson said. “You just got to get out of there.”

TOO EARLY TO TELL?: Joe Lunardi has high hopes for the Tigers in ESPN.com’s first version of Bracketology. He slotted the Tigers as the top seed in the 2004 NCAA Tournament’s Kansas City/St. Louis regional.

A No. 6 seed in the last season’s Midwest Region, the Tigers’ postseason run ended with a second-round loss to Marquette.


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