Mizzou players enjoying new system under Haith
Posted on: November 23, 2011 1:04 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 1:10 pm
By Jeff Goodman
Kids love playing fast. However, what they really enjoy is playing more and playing free.
That's just one of the reasons why Missouri senior Kim English and his teammates have thrived thus far.
There's the 5-0 record under new coach Frank Haith - but plenty of Top 25 teams are undefeated. The Tigers have pummeled Notre Dame and Cal by an average of nearly 30 points.
"It's easier to get in a flow this year," English said shortly after the 92-53 rout over a ranked Bears team. "I never have to worry about hunting my shots, because I trust the system."
Marcus Denmon was the lone player on the team who averaged 30-plus minutes a year ago under Mike Anderson. He's averaging 31 minutes this year and seen his scoring increase from 16.9 to 19.6 points per game. English's minutes have gone from 25.8 to 33.2, Michael Dixon's have increased from 22.3 to 26.8 and Phil Pressey has jumped from 22 to 30.8.
Haith wasted no time making the intelligent move of not only putting the ball in Pressey's hands the majority of the time, but allowing the pass-first, jet-qick point guard to play through his mistakes -- something Anderson never understood. Even when Pressey struggles a bit, as he did against Cal, Dixon can pick up the slack.
"They won't both be off," English said. "Phil needs the ball in his hands; that's his advantage."
English said this is the happiest he's been in his career.
"Last year was so hard from me. When I got cut from USA basketball, I was in the dumps," he said. "It was almost like I fell out of love with basketball. Then I started working all summer and now it's fun again."
"This team is definitely the most selfless team I've ever played on," he added.
English is thriving, averaging 16 points thus far and shooting the ball as well as he has in his career. He's 18-of-30 from beyond the arc. Denmon continues to shine, Ricardo Ratliffe is solid in the post and the combo of Pressey and Dixon is a terrific 1-2 punch - and can also play together.
Sure, it's early to completely leap onto the Mizzou bandwagon.
The Tigers are far from intimidating up front and don't have much depth.
But these guys aren't looking over their shoulder anymore -- and for them, that's a welcome change.