Oct. 3, 2012
Columbia, Mo. -
Missouri Basketball enters the 2012-13 campaign on a high note following last year's exciting 30-win season and final Big 12 Championship. The Tigers, who as the Sporting News wrote welcome in one of the top transfer classes in the history of college basketball, could enjoy one of their top preseason rankings in program history and are ranked No. 10 in that same Sporting News Preseason Poll.
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"Expectations are a good thing, but as a player, it's on you to get out there and perform," junior guard Phil Pressey said. "We want to be there at the end of the season. That's the goal of every team in college basketball, to be there when it really matters."
Pressey headlines a list of three returning players with all-conference accolades, including Laurence Bowers who returns from ACL surgery and Michael Dixon who was named a Preseason Second Team All-American.
Bowers has added strength over the past year and should be better able to battle in the paint as the Tigers enter the Southeastern Conference. The Memphis, Tenn., native spent a great deal of his rehabilitation work with strength coach Todor Pandov and Tiger fans will see a new-look Bowers as he begins his final season of play for Mizzou.
"I feel good and it's great being so close to the start of the season," Bowers said. "It was a challenge over the past year (rehabbing), but to be this close to the start of the year is really a blessing. I can't wait to run out there and compete in front of our fans one final time."
Bowers was an All-Defensive Team pick by the Big 12 in 2011 and earned Academic All-Conference honors last season after graduating and beginning pursuit of his Masters in Health Education and Promotion.
"That was how I could contribute last season," Bowers said. "I worked hard in the classroom and earned my degree and now I am finishing up my career on the court and trying to earn a Masters as well. Taking care of business in the classroom is a big part of who we are here."
Pressey is also back after one of the greatest point guard seasons in school history. The lightning-quick guard broke the school record for assists (223 in 2011-12) and is on pace to break Mizzou career marks in both the assists and steals categories. Pressey needs just 158 dimes to break Anthony Peeler's career mark of 497 and spent his summer working at the LeBron James, Chris Paul and Deron Williams elite camps.
The Dallas native was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team after helping lead the Tigers to that three-game sweep through Kansas City, Mo., and was a First Team all-conference selection by CBS.
Dixon was the country's top scorer off the bench last season (13.5 ppg, no starts) and joined former Syracuse star Dion Waiters (No. 4 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers) as the most common selections for various top sixth man honors. A native of Kansas City, Mo., Dixon ranked among league leaders in league play by shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and 39.2 percent from three-point range. He also played some of his best basketball vs. Top 25 opposition, averaging 14.5 points in eight games vs. ranked foes. He closed 2012 with 14 consecutive double-figure scoring games and topped 20 points five times, including a career high 30-point night vs. William & Mary.
Missouri will also be fueled by an incredible influx of transfer talent. That group is headlined by Keion Bell, Jabari Brown, Alex Oriakhi and Earnest Ross. Bell, Brown and Ross were a part of the Tiger program last season and Brown will be eligible to play after the fall semester. Bell, Oriakhi and Ross are eligible immediately and bring unique skill sets to the club to add depth and Division I experience for Frank Haith's program.
Bell began his career at Pepperdine and scored more than 1,300 points in three seasons. He also averaged 12 points per game during Missouri's summer tour of Europe and showed very good play-making ability, attacking the basket to set up teammates on the perimeter.
Oriakhi is a transfer from Connecticut and helped lead the Huskies to the 2011 NCAA Championship. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound bruiser will join Bowers in giving the Tigers a dynamic shot-blocking tandem and nearly averaged a double-double during that national title run in 2011, averaging 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds in 39 starts.
Ross is a physical specimen that would pass the "eye-test" if he walked off the team bus with the Tiger Football team. A former MVP with the Auburn Tigers in 2011, Ross averaged 9.3 rebounds in Europe this summer and topped the team with two double-doubles. He also ranked second on the team with nine steals and will be a great weapon for Pressey and Dixon with his ability to run the court and attack the rim.
Brown was a Jordan Brand All-American as a high school senior in Oakland, Calif., in 2011 and began his career at Oregon before transferring to Mizzou. The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder averaged 10 points per game in Europe and brings in impressive prep credentials after averaging 24 points as a high school senior.
The Tigers also welcome in improved depth from a key recruiting class, including three players standing 6-foot-9 or better, Tony Criswell, Stefan Jankovic and Ryan Rosburg, as well as big guards Negus Webster-Chan and Dominique Bull.
Missouri opens practice on Oct. 12 at Mizzou Madness. The event will be televised nationally on ESPN3.com and ESPNU. The event is free to the public and parking for the event is free as well. Doors to Mizzou Arena will now open at 5:30 p.m. to allow for an extended autograph period with the team.