Missouri senior G Marcus Denmon 6'3" 185 enters his final season at Missouri under first-year Head Coach Frank Haith , fresh off of a summer spent playing for Team USA in the World University Games,. Last season, Denmon earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors, along with being named All-District by both the NABC and the USBWA. As a junior, Denmon averaged over 30 minutes/game in Mike Anderson's up-tempo system, and routinely drew the toughest defensive assignment, while averaging a team-leading 16.9 points/game, on 50% field-goal shooting, and 45% 3-PT field-goal shooting. Denmon also averaged 3.5 rebounds/game, 1.8 steals/game, and 1.8 assists/game, while maintaining a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio.
During Missouri's first two exhibitions, Denmon has been a scoring machine, pouring in over twenty points per contest, while playing limited minutes against over-matched competition. For those who have watched, Denmon has once again displayed his extremely high basketball I.Q., rarely forcing a bad shot, and keeping his teammates involved. When Missouri has put together runs, they have usually come with Denmon on the floor.
"He's a great scorer," said Coach Haith, speaking of Denmon. "He's just a great player. And, I think he's going to have an outstanding senior year. I mean, because he wants it. He's determined. He's just a talented, talented guard. I've seen some great ones, but he's as good as I've been around."
Coach Haith was asked about Denmon's role as Missouri's primary offensive option.
"Well, if he's open I want him to shoot (the ball)," said Coach Haith, explaining how Denmon fits into Missouri's offense. "I don't know any other way to say it than that. Marcus is a terrific player!................................................ I think he's a great shooter. I've been around the ACC and some really good guards and he's right there with them. He's efficient, very efficient, in terms of shot (selection). He's so solid in what he does and how he scores, and (in) transition, too."
Denmon was asked about filling that role of scorer for the Tigers this season.
"To be honest, that's something my teammates expect from me," replied Denmon, whom teammate Michael Dixon called, "a real unselfish player". "They see me working on my game every day in practice. But, we have a lot of guys offensively that can score. The things that we work on every day to be consistent in, because no matter how hard you work on it, there's going to be some nights that you can't shoot the ball great. The things you can be consistent in is (on) the defensive end, and that's something we have been trying to focus on. But, I do believe that we have a lot of offensive abilities on this team."
Denmon was asked about adjusting to Coach Haith's style of play?
"Coach allows us the freedom offensively to play up and down," replied Denmon. "On the defensive end, we will pressure the ball full-court. We do different up-tempo things. But right now, we are adapting to playing this style of play. Even though it is a fast-paced and up-tempo game, it is a little different."
With the lack of size that Missouri has this season, Denmon was asked about rebounding?
"Rebounding is kind of like wanting to, and just toughness, and being able to get in there." replied Denmon. "That's something that I have. You know, once the games start, everyone kind of understands their role and what we need to do. We'll make adjustments, and I'm sure we'll rebound the ball."
Denmon talked about playing with Ricardo Ratliffe.
"If you pass the ball into Ricardo, the percentages say that he's going to produce," explained Denmon. "He led the team in field goal percentage last year, and probably about six out of every ten times that you get it to him, he's going to score the ball, or do something positive. Not only does he score the ball, but he's also unselfish. And, working it inside-out, we can get a lot of open shots for guards."
The intelligence with which Denmon plays, and the way that he has continued to improve each year that he's been at Missouri, reminds me of another Missouri great, Melvin Booker. There are other similarities between Denmon and Booker. In March of 1994, when Booker accepted the Big 8 Player of the Year Award, he said, "Thank you. This just goes to show that hard work pays off."
I asked Denmon to what does he attribute his continued improvement as a player?
"I've always been a hard worker ," said Denmon. "I feel that from my freshman year until now, the biggest thing has been my work ethic. I attribute my success to my work ethic."
On Monday night (7:00 P.M., MSN), the #25 Missouri Tigers close out their exhibition season by playing host to the Central Missouri Mules, who are coached by former Missouri great, and former assistant coach, Kim Anderson. Anderson, who is in his tenth season of a very successful run as the head coach of the Mules, was named Big 8 Player of the Year in 1977, after leading the league in scoring as a senior. For his career, Anderson scored 1289 points, which ranks among Missouri's Top-20 all-time scorers. He was an integral part of Missouri's 1976 Big 8 Conference Champions. He is also member of the University of Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield. In 2005 he was named to the Mizzou Basketball All-Century Team.
Anderson's Mules lost over 50 percent of their scoring and nearly 50 percent of their rebounding from last season's 18-11 team. Junior F Dominique Long 6'6" 185, from Wayneville (MO) is one of the Mules top returning players, along with junior F Matt Webb 6'8" 250, from Kansas City (MO), who averaged 15 ppg and 8.4 rpg a year ago, and junior G Yavario Smith 6'0" 160, from Due West (SC), who averaged 17.7 ppg last season.