COLUMBIA — The MU basketball team is looking for ways to improve its defense. Why not put in a goalie to protect the rim?
He might not wear oversized leg pads and a helmet with a slick logo on it, but DeMarre Carroll is going to be the Tigers’ goalie in the 2007-08 season; at least in the eyes of his teammate, guard Keon Lawrence.
“Exactly like a goalie,” Lawrence said. “We were kind of soft at the rim last year, people got past our press and they could score easy. Get dunks and stuff. He ain’t gonna give none of that up.”
Coach Mike Anderson said he wants more blocked shots and better rebounding from the Tigers’ defense this season. Carroll appears to be a perfect fit. He snagged several rebounds and had a couple of big blocks during the team’s scrimmage at Mizzou Madness on Friday night.
It’s not just his defensive potential that has people buzzing about Carroll this preseason; it’s his talent as a whole. He was named the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year by the league head coaches.
Carroll shrugs off the recognition as something that was given to him because of his play at Vanderbilt two seasons ago. After sitting out last season in accordance with the NCAA rules for an athlete who changes schools, Carroll just wants to get back into the action this season.
“I’m hungry,” he said. “And I ain’t talking about food.”
Carroll is a junior in terms of eligibility but that isn’t how he views his first season on the court with MU.
“The way I try to look at this year is that it is my senior year,” he said. “Because if I didn’t sit out last year this would be my senior year. I want to let them go out with a great year.”
The “them” Carroll is referring to is the Tigers’ seniors. The team has five seniors — guards Stefhon Hannah and Jason Horton, and forwards Marshall Brown, Vaidotas Volkus and Darryl Butterfield — Carroll said he wants to help send those seniors off with some great memories of their final year in college basketball.
“(I want to) make the tournament, and just win, that’s it,” he said.
His skills and experience should help the Tigers, but Anderson doesn’t want people putting too much hype into Carroll’s arrival on the court this season.
“He’s not going to be the savior,” Anderson said. “And I don’t even want him thinking that. All the preseason hype, that’s just somebody’s opinion. As I told him, you got to prove yourself day-in and day-out on this basketball court.”
Carroll is not merely a defensive specialist. He has already proven that he can score points on a consistent basis at the college level by averaging 10.9 points per game during his sophomore season at Vanderbilt.
Those points came in an offense that Carroll felt did not tailor to his style of play. He said that Vanderbilt used the Princeton offense, which is designed to slow the game down, and built around back door cuts to the basket.
“I like up-and-down tempo,” he said. “I like running and gunning, diving, jumping in the crowd. Letting all my emotions take place on the court.”
He believes that Missouri’s fast-paced style of play will take him back to what made him a Division I athlete in the first place.
“Here (at Missouri) I get to run and gun and really do what I did in high school,” Carroll said. “(I get to) block shots, dunk, do stuff like that.”
Carroll joins Brown and Leo Lyons as skilled forwards who can create problems for opposing defenses because of their size and athletic ability. Lyons said he and Carroll are excited about the possibility of being on the court at the same time.
“We talk about it every day,” Lyons said. “We’re kind of similar players, so we both can create mismatches. Whoever has the mismatch, that’s who we want to go to.”
Since Carroll has yet to play a game for the Tigers, most of the talk is about his preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year recognition. Carroll continually brushed off questions of the preseason award during the team’s media day, saying he cares more about team results than individual accomplishments.
“You can give me player of the year,” he said. “It don’t matter, I’m just here to win. I’m not bigger than the team. I hope nobody on the team is bigger than the team. We just want to win.”