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What Dennis Gates and Nick Honor had to say prior to Memphis coming to town

Words from the head coach and veteran point guard ahead of Friday’s contest against TN Tigers

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On Friday, Mizzou basketball will face a tough test in just their second game of the season. The Tigers from Memphis will pay a visit to Columbia; it’ll be the teams’ first meeting since Mizzou topped Memphis 102-91 in the Sweet 16 back in 2009.

Here’s what head coach Dennis Gates and guard Nick Honor had to say ahead of the matchup.

Dennis Gates I Head Coach I 2nd Year at Mizzou

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On Memphis head coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway despite him not being able to coach due to a three-game suspension: “I respect Penny Hardaway and what he’s done and the tradition of Memphis basketball.”

What Memphis does well: “They run. It’s a transition team as well. They do great things off the dribble. They are tremendous in certain areas defensively. They still shoot the ball well. It’s a different team because I think this is one of Coach Hardaway’s most talented teams.”

On playing a prestigious program this early in the season: “We want to see who we are so we can now use that information and experience to continue to grow at this phase because growing in November is different than growing in December and preparing for the SEC.”

NCAA Basketball: Central Florida at Wichita State William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

On Jaykwon Walton: “Jaykwon Walton was a kid that, you know, started his career elsewhere, transferred to Wichita State and had a great season...He’s a heck of a player. I believe that he is a pro.”

Words on the rest of Memphis’ roster: “They have another former McDonalds All-American in (Jordan) Brown. They have (Malcolm) Dandridge back, unbelievable guard play and some transfers that come in.”

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What Mizzou needs to improve on for Friday: “I want to have a better assist-to-turnover ratio. I thought 13 turnovers were too many. I thought we had a single digit number and then there was a spell, maybe in the game or with my substitution pattern that I got to be more cognitive of and not put our guys in bad situations.”

What Mizzou needs to take from Monday’s win into Friday: “Our free throw percentage and our 3-point percentage. Those things are very important to us...I’m thankful for our connectivity.”

On Mizzou’s 2024 recruiting class that’s No. 2 in the nation: “These kids stopped going on official visits because they knew they wanted to be here. They knew the connectivity that they had with our staff, our current roster, but also the style of play and where they wanted their futures to go.”

Why Gates staff offered so many class of 2024 athletes when they first arrived at Mizzou: “We set out to establish ourselves nationally as a program that’s growing. And once you establish yourself in that way, you have to reach out, you have to extend yourself because recruiting is a very important part of any organization.”

Next step for the 2024 recruiting class: “The next phase of that is their development, finishing this year, checking into campus as early as early as they can and starting their process of having a great freshman season.”

Oral Roberts v Duke Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

On Connor Vanover not being able to play: “He’s sitting out not because of anything he did wrong, but because of the loophole in the system...I don’t think the rules changed to fit these guys and their eligibility.”

On David Steward visiting Mizzou: “I’m thankful that David Steward, founder of World Wide Technology came in and visited our program. He gave our guys a pregame speech, pregame talk, but more importantly his story...he was able to share certain things with our guys from the standpoint of the biggest obstacle being yourself.”

One recruiting post-COVID: “Relationships are important. College basketball is changing. You have G League Ignite, you have OTE (Overtime Elite) and different organizations giving guys professional hope and a professional opportunity where they can forego college basketball and the recruiting process to concentrate on the things that they want.”

On the difference between recruiting high school players versus college players in the transfer portal: “I think it all is the same. You recruit good people that can see the best in your environment.”

On D’Moi Hodge scoring his First NBA points on Wednesday night: “D’Moi is a tremendous inspiration for the people from his country, the British Virgin Islands...It means a lot, but I know the boy’s not satisfied with just scoring his first basket or being in the NBA. He wants to have a long career...I told him, whenever LeBron James passes you the ball, you better make that shot.”

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Nick Honor I Graduate I 2nd year at Mizzou

On how having a veteran-laden squad helps in a tough early season test: “It helps a lot. These first five or six games have really quick turnarounds...having those veterans is important. {We} let the team know that it’s a long season and you’ve got to play at a high level night in and night out. Having a lot of vets helps.”

On Jahvon Quinerly: “He’s a three-level scorer. He can really create off the dribble and create for others. He’s a really good player. I’m excited to play against him again.”

On Anthony Robinson II’s first collegiate game: “It made me happy. He came off the bench, showed a lot of energy, showed some explosiveness. Me personally, I’m proud to see his development. The sky’s the limit for him.”

On how he’s made on-ball scoring a bigger part of his game: “{It was} really just, in the summer, looking at different numbers and stuff. I felt like I shot it ok last year from three. Talking to Coach Gates, I realized that role is going to increase…he says I’m a little too unselfish sometimes. So I’m really just looking back at film and realizing I got to be more aggressive….I definitely need to score this year, for sure.”

On team chemistry: “The amount of bonding we do starting in June really helps us. One thing about this time, we’re all excited for one another. Somebody may be off one night, but we’re still happy because when the team wins, everybody wins.”

“We definitely have strength in numbers.”

On the benefits of tough games early on for new players: “It gives you a taste of SEC play, Whether that’s a tough game on the road or Arkansas coming here, or even playing in Nashville…it’s like a tournament game feel.”

How the newcomers have acclimated to Mizzou’s offensive system: “It’s about being comfortable. Some of the guys may transfer from a different school with different systems. So you have to let go of those habits from your old coaches and stuff like that. But I feel like we put in a lot of reps. Coach Matt Klein does a lot of work with us, really breaking it down for us. So I feel like as time goes on, they get better. Even last year, we looked at some film, there were some times that I was out there looking a little unsure….by the time conference play hits, I believe we should really be on the same page.”

On if players are starstruck when former basketball phenoms like Penny Hardaway and Jerry Stackhouse are coaching the opposing team: “It’s just the team’s opposing coach. Obviously, when you first see them, you start thinking about all they’ve done for the game. But at the end of the day, it’s basketball. We’re trying to beat him at the end of the day.”

On what he remembers from his high school signing day: “That was way, way back. I remember my grandmas, aunt, and grandparents were there. My sisters were able to make it…my mom and dad were there. It was just a good moment. As a kid, that was definitely one of my goals, and a lot of people didn’t think I could make it to the Division I level, so it was a great milestone. I still have the picture of me and my mom and my dad from signing day…anytime it comes up on my phone, I start smiling.”