The start of the Missouri basketball season is still about five months away. But the foundation for the Tigers' 2011-12 campaign is being laid down right now. PowerMizzou.com stopped by a best-of-seven pickup set to chat with the current Tigers about the new coaching staff, the off-season goals and the looming season.
In a series of one-on-one interviews called Summer Sessions, Tiger fans can hear from each scholarship player this is currently on campus, minus newcomer Earnest Ross, who is not yet available for interviews.
Today, we start our series with leading scorer and first-team all-Big 12 performer Marcus Denmon.
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PowerMizzou.com: You haven't really talked to many people since coach Anderson left. Take me through the couple of months where you don't know who your coach is going to be, then the transition to the new staff.
Marcus Denmon: "You know, that kind of came out of the blue when that happened, when coach Anderson left. But the new coaching staff, coach Haith and the rest of the coaches came in and hit the ground running. I feel they've been doing a really good job as far as recruiting and getting guys to fill. I mean, coming in with seven seniors, I think they really did a good job. Everyone's been working hard. They started to make connections with the players and I feel that I really have high expectations next year."
PM: Last year, personally, you have a breakout year, put up big numbers, start to get some recognition. But the team didn't do as well as a lot of you had hoped. After a couple months to look back on it, what did you think of last season?
MD: "Personally, like you said, I started to get a little bit of the attention, a little notoriety. That's what comes with hard work. I just stay humble and just keep working. I mean, every day, I'm in the gym, still working hard trying to have an even better year. I set really high standards and expectations of myself, even when no one else may have. The expectations, I set them for myself so I'm really not surprised. But as far as the team, we felt that we came up short. We felt that we had a better team than where we got, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. You have to take it in stride and learn from it. We have the nucleus of the team back. We only lost one senior. We lost a couple guys from the team last year as well as our whole coaching staff, so I mean that was a big adjustment, but I feel that the nucleus of the team is here and players make the program. I'm sure with a lot of good guys still here, we should be able to go into the next year and still have a successful season."
PM: Do you set personal goals this early, whether it's Big 12 player of the year, leading scorer, things like that?
MD: "I think all that stuff really takes care of itself. I mean, I was first-team all-Big 12 Conference last year, but if I reach the expectations I set for myself, then I feel that those type of things will take care of themselves. All I can do is just continue to work and get better. I'm not settling for any of that because that's just a little stepping stone of where I'm trying to get to. I'm just continuing to work hard, I'm in the gym every day because I know that's what makes it pay off."
PM: This will be your last go-round. Has it gone by quickly?
MD: "Yeah, definitely. I remember when I was a freshman and the seniors were telling us how fast it would go. It seems like it was just the other day. I was just out here getting my workout in, after our workout as a team, I just was getting my shots up I get in every day and Matt (Lawrence) was rebounding for me. He was one of our core guys from that team when I was a freshman. He was one of those seniors. It was just kind of funny that now I'm in the role as a senior and he's back here as a GA. I just remember them telling us how fast it would go by. Now it's here and I just want to take advantage of it."
PM: That team you were on as a freshman gets to the Elite Eight. Did you think at that time it was going to be that easy every year? And since it hasn't been, do you appreciate a little bit more what that team did?
MD: "Definitely. I feel that we really had a good team my freshman year. Probably the best team. You can say this. I mean, obviously we had the most wins in school history, so we had a lot of shoes to fill coming into my sophomore year as well as my junior year. So this year is gonna be a really big year. I feel as a team leader and one of the team captains, it would really be a special season for us because of all the seniors we have. I feel that we're a lot like that team. We have the core guys coming back with a little bit of some new people, players coming in as well. I feel that we're really going to try to take off and have a really good year."
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