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October 14, 2010
Mike Anderson does not shy away from it. In fact, he embraces it. It is part of the "blueprint" of which Anderson so often speaks.
"I think we're getting some pretty talented young guys coming in here," Anderson said. "What happens, hopefully, you start recruiting, not only continue to get good kids, but you get better talent."
Anderson has had his share of success in four years at Missouri. He has won 88 games already, more than any other Tiger coach in his first four seasons. Fifty-four of those wins have come in the last two seasons, including four in the NCAA Tournament.
Success breeds success, particularly on the recruiting trail. The first three classes he signed at Missouri were full of transfers (DeMarre Carroll and Zaire Taylor), junior college players (Stefhon Hannah and Keith Ramsey) and high school prospects often passed over by some of the bigger programs for one reason or another (J.T Tiller, Marcus Denmon, Laurence Bowers). Anderson has frequently joked that while other schools are busy landing McDonald's all-Americans, he was building a program with Burger King all-Americans.
"Overlooking McDonald's all-Americans is not a bad idea, but I mean, who would purposely overlook a McDonald's all-American?" Laurence Bowers asked. "It's working out. Whatever he's been doing, he just needs to keep doing it. It's been working out for us."
In the 2009 class, Anderson grabbed Michael Dixon, a highly-touted guard out of Lee's Summit who entertained offers from the likes of Arizona, Cal and Oklahoma. Then came 2010, Anderson's breakthrough class in terms of national recognition. The six-man group included the nation's No. 1 junior college prospect in Ricardo Ratliffe, one of the most recruited point guards in the country in Phil Pressey and the crown jewel of the class, the No. 15 player in America, in Tony Mitchell. The total haul was rated as a top ten class in the country and the best in the Big XII according to Rivals.com.
Mitchell is not yet on campus, but the other five join a Tiger team that has lofty expectations this season. The coach is quick to remind everyone that none of them have done a thing so far.
"That's on paper," Anderson said. "Those guys have not played a single minute, a single second, of Division One basketball. There are a lot of unknowns."
Perhaps that is Anderson's way of indoctrinating the newbies to his way of doing things. The Tigers have reached their lofty pre-season perch thanks in large part to a bunch of underrecruited kids playing with something to prove.
"Tables turn," Kim English said. "Tables turn."
This new group cannot be called underrecruited. But they appear to join the fray with no sense of entitlement.
"It's the same style, same thing, just higher ranked players," Ratliffe said. "We all just want to play hard-nosed defense and just win."
At Missouri, the veterans say, you have no other choice.
"Coach recruits so much more than a ranking," English said. "He recruits players and he recruits people. He knows these kids before he ever even offers them a scholarship. There's so many kids that I tell him to go see and he's like, 'Nah, I really didn't like him.' He's hard to please as far as recruits. So I trust a hundred percent, when I meet these guys on their visits and then eventually in June when we come back for summer school, that they're a hundred percent bought in."
"That's something that you know coming in," Bowers said. "The leader in minutes last year was something like 26. From my personal experience, coming off the bench, I still played a decent amount of minutes. The points, I'm not really worried about that. I'm just worried about how I can help the team. If we win, you're still gonna succeed."
Anderson readily admits the talent level and the athleticism of this team is greater than years past. But those individuals have just one goal: Make Missouri a better team.
"They need me to rebound, score on the low block and play aggressive defense," Ratliffe said. "That's what I plan on doing."
PowerMizzou.com will have pre-season coverage of the Tigers throughout the week, including a Friday night photo gallery from the season's first practice.
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