On Saturday morning, the Missouri Tigers' players were gracious to hold a short open scrimmage for the benefit of the fans. As always, it was much appreciated.
Ricardo Ratliffe sat out today's scrimmage as he recovers from some recent dental work.
Today's scrimmage seemed a little more crisp than the ones from a week ago, as the time for practices to begin approaches.
There were two significant observations from Saturday. First of all, Kim English played much differently today than he did a week ago. He played well. He worked without the ball to get open, then either took the open jump shots off of the catch, or put the ball on the floor and went to the basket when he had an advantage. He didn't hog the ball, at least not nearly like a week ago, and he didn't force his drive into traffic nearly as much as he had last week. He was quite effective on the offensive end, and it was very good to see. If he plays like he did today, this Tiger team will benefit greatly, and his teammates will be fortunate to have him on their team.
There wasn't a lot of defense being played in this pick-up type action, so I don't have anything to report on English's defense. He does like to leak out in transition, from defense to offense, and cherry-pick on the offensive end. This practice is very beneficial to his team once they've secured the basketball. Until his team has secured possession of the ball however, I'd really like to see Kim get in there and help his team rebound the basketball.
The second significant observation from Saturday was the dramatically improved condition and play of the two recovering big men. Justin Safford looked a lot better this week than last. He had good explosion and quickness. His timing was much better. I saw him cut hard and explode off of his surgically repaired knee. That was encouraging to see!
An even bigger improvement was observed in the physical condition and the play of Kadeem Green. The difference in Green's physical condition from last week to this week was like night and day. He's still got a ways to go, but he showed extended glimpses of real outstanding athleticism and explosiveness. If he continues to make anywhere near this kind of week to week improvement physically, he'll definitely be a factor in the Tigers' playing rotation. Based on what I saw today, I'm thinking that we can pencil Kadeem into the four-man playing rotation up front. Oh, he'll have to continue to recover physically, and continue to learn and adapt to the college game, but after today, I'm very encouraged about his ability to help the team this year.
The Tigers have a better cast of players to put on the court this season. They have depth that will likely allow Coach Anderson to play 10-11 players nightly, and at most positions, the drop off from the starter to the back up is negligible, or at least not great.
Coach will have to go to work with this group to get them to play the kind of defense he's going to want, but his biggest concern on the offensive end will be a shortage of basketballs to go around to all of the talented scorers. As long as they share the ball, and work together as a team to get the best shot for the team, they'll be able to score in bunches. I suspect much of their practice time will be used to teach and refine their defensive abilities, and I think that how well they play defense will largely determine their ceiling as a team.