Nearly 45 minutes into their Wednesday afternoon scrimmage, Missouri strength and conditioning coach David Deets spotted a couple players lagging behind on a fast break.
While new head coach Mike Anderson was not allowed to supervise because of NCAA regulations, his message was still present.
“You gotta get your ... down the floor,” Deets shouted.
Anderson’s style of an aggressive, nonstop full-court press requires relentless effort, an effort Deets noticed was lagging at that point during the scrimmage. But, with still more than two months before the season begins, that could be expected.
“Whenever we start running is when we start conditioning,” junior forward Marshall Brown said. “It’s going to take a while to get your feet under you and get used to it. It’s good, and we need it. (Coach Anderson) is trying to show us the style of play. Everything is just moving, moving, moving.”
The team’s 15 players participating in the scrimmage were split into three five-man squads for pick-up games. Each game was fast-paced, with few stoppages of play. As soon as one field goal was made, the ball was picked up and thrown inbounds immediately after falling through the net.
Pick-up games are usually fast paced, but if any player took a break to catch his breath, Deets was there to urge on more fastbreaks, more hustle and faster play.
“It’s a different system as opposed to last year,” junior center Kalen Grimes said. “It’s harder, a lot of running. It’s the kind of work you don’t mind doing because you know it’s going to pay off in the end.”
Grimes also said the change will be better for a Missouri team that went 12-16 last year, and finished 11th (5-11) in the Big 12 Conference. The change has the players excited about playing in a new system, one they already feel comfortable with.
“That’s how we played it in high school and stuff,” junior guard Jason Horton said. “It’s simple basketball. Fun. Exciting. It takes a lot of energy, which is good. A lot of teams aren’t going to be used to playing like this.”
Newcomer Darryl Butterfield, a junior forward who transferred from Mineral Area College in Park Hills, said he thinks the uniqueness of the style of play gives Missouri an advantage in conference play.
“I don’t think (Big 12 teams) have seen the system,” he said. “We’ll be up there. We’ll surprise a lot of teams.”
After suffering consecutive losing seasons in their first two years with the Tigers, Brown and Grimes are ready to try to turn the program around.
“The two years I’ve been here haven’t turned out the way I wanted to,” Brown said. “This year, I’m trying to put an end to that.”
In those two years, the pressure around the program and coach Quin Snyder intensified, eventually resulting in the departure of Snyder and the hiring of Anderson. Grimes has already noticed a change in the mood of the team.
“It’s a better atmosphere,” Grimes said. “It’s more gentle. Everybody’s more relaxed yet still working hard. Everybody’s not so uptight and worried.”