The Missouri Tigers basketball season tips off Thursday night with an exhibition game against Washington University (St. Louis) at Mizzou Arena.
Although an exhibition, the game will serve as a foundational piece for the Tigers, who bring a recreated roster from last season’s 12-21 squad. Most notably, head coach Dennis Gates will have his first opportunity to showcase his coaching abilities, while guard Isiaih Mosley will make his much-anticipated hometown return.
However, before Mizzou takes the court tomorrow, the Tigers addressed the media on Wednesday to recap what has been an eventful offseason and share what this year’s expectations are.
Gates maintains his stand on no ‘set’ rotation
Gates has held back from announcing a true starting rotation so far this offseason, and he reaffirmed that notion again today.
“I don’t think we have a team where I can sit here and play with the same lineup every game,” Gates said. “You’ll see guys starting based off of matchups. I think there are seven or eight guys that can start without a doubt, but I can’t tell you that we’ll have the same starting lineup for the entire season.”
The expectation for the team, as Gates said, is to manage this Mizzou team similar to those at Florida State and Cleveland State. Both programs played in a system where 10-12 players were involved in a game-by-game basis, which is something Gates believes can happen with the Tigers, too.
With the wide range of players and assets, the Tigers will offer a unique combination of talents that will make the team difficult to prepare against, as Mizzou forward Kobe Brown said.
“I feel like it’s going to be really hard to scout our team because everyone does everything,” Brown said. “We have so many actions and different ways of doing things, like we almost don’t know what we’re doing, so how could (opponents) know?”
Growth will be a key to Mizzou’s success
With the involvement of so many players on the court, it’s little surprise that Gates emphasized the importance of a player-led team, too.
“A player-led team is sometimes a team that can cut down nets, raise some banners and hold up trophies,” Gates said. “That is our goal, but it’s going to take a lot of things to happen for us to get there.”
Leadership, especially among players, dominated the conversation at several points, emphasizing the importance of it. As Gates said, this team is similar to a puzzle, meaning everyone brings their own traits, personality and skill. Enhancing that connection will be crucial toward establishing that player-led scheme.
One key player, who was also named a Preseason All-SEC First Team selection on Wednesday, will play a prominent role in leadership—Kobe Brown. One of three returning players, Brown understands Mizzou and the SEC, bringing a unique insight to the team.
“Kobe Brown has been named Captain and there’s an expectation of that,” Gates said. “He has been talking more, way more, and being more extroverted on the basketball court than he’s ever been.”
“Definitely,” Brown said when asked if he’s changed in his vocal leadership. “(I’m) just more vocal on the court. Y’know, I’m always screaming. I almost lost my voice a couple of times, just trying to meet (Gates’) demands and be a better player.”
Being a Tiger “means the world” to Aidan Shaw
Hailing from Overland Park, Kansas, Shaw enters his freshman season as a semi-local recruit with a lot of potential. So far, however, it’s been his support and passion for the Tigers that has caught the attention of several throughout campus.
“When I go to other sports, I’m just another fan,” Shaw said. “I feel like (I’m) reciprocating energy, like if I go and support them, they come and support us, and we get more fans out here.”
Shaw has become a staple at sporting events throughout Mizzou Athletics, including football and volleyball games. The decision to come to the Tigers, however, came down to Gates himself.
“Coach Gates was the first person to contact me as soon as he got the job,” Shaw said. “He sold me on his plan for me in the future. He has lots of connections (and) I feel like he has a lot of experience as well.”
The high-flying and athletic Shaw said his athleticism and effort on the defensive end will be the assists he’s most looking forward to implementing in the season. His goal, however, remains one of growth.
“The big goal is to make the national championship,” Shaw said. “For me, I just want to see myself grow every day, so we’ll see what that takes me.”
Mosley happy to be home
“It’s good to be home,” Mosley said. “I’m in a great spot, where I grew up at with a lot of great guys, a lot of great coaches and a good coaching staff.”
A Missouri State transfer and Rock Bridge graduate, Mosley will embark on his first season in front of his hometown Columbia fans. He was named a Mid-Major All-American and finished second in MVC Larry Bird Player of the Year voting.
He will now bring his prestigious scoring talent to the Tigers.
“What I've been impressed the most (by) is his playmaking ability, his ability to pass and unselfish spirit that he’s been playing with,” Gates said.
Although he’s known primarily for his offensive abilities, Mosley is looking to cause havoc on the defensive end as well.
“I just want to bring the fight, the dog, (on) the defensive side,” Mosley said. “That's what Coach Gates is big on, so I want to bring that to my team.”
Gates hopes for a sell-out crowd
It’s no secret that Gates loves to interact with the Mizzou fanbase, as evidenced by his Twitter feed.
In his short tenure thus far, he has provided a much-needed dynamic to the realm of Tiger coaches and he hopes his efforts are replicated from the Mizzou faithful as well.
“Our season is not done alone,” Gates said. “We have to make (Mizzou Arena) a hostile environment. We have to get Mizzou Arena where it needs to be amongst the nation’s elite. I’ll put our fans against any fans in the country ... and when you can say that, it means you have something special.”
Gates understands that the Border Showdown against kansas will showcase a sellout crowd, but he hopes that before then, the Tigers can feature a couple sell-out crowds as well. The first regular season opportunity will be next Monday night.
“I hope November 7, we’ll have a sold-out crowd,” Gates said.