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 move forward in our series with junior guard Mike Dixon Jr..
PowerMizzou.com: Take me through the transition to the new coaching staff.
Mike Dixon: "It was different. I mean, you hate to see a good coach like Coach Anderson leave and things like that, but obviously he had to do what was good for his family and for generations down the line. I selfishly wanted him to be here, but you can't really blame him for that. He's moved on and I think we have too. It was a little different. We welcome coach Haith with open arms. Everyone around here is about family and he's our coach whether we really wanted to like it or not. So why not embrace him? We did and he's got some familiar faces in coach Chew, who used to coach me and Marcus and Steve with Kansas City Pump N Run so that was a little more welcoming. Coach Fuller, he was a director at Chris Paul camp when I was in high school so I was familiar with him and coach Nestor and everybody else. It was different, but we're happy with who we got."
PM: What about his system and what he does might fit you better than the old system?
MD: "He says he wants us to guard the ball and make people score over us. I feel like we've got a lot of guys that can play solid man-to-man defense as well as what we used to play so I think that will be to our benefit. As far as the offensive end, everybody in the country knows we've got weapons so I think if we get in a structure, we could be really dangerous, especially with Phil and myself coming off of ball screens and things like that and being able to score the ball from all three areas of the floor. Having shooters like Marcus Denmon and Kim English and having guys coming off screens and creating like Matt Pressey and big guys inside, I mean, down the line, we only lost one guy. So the sky's the limit for us, especially with a structure."
PM: Do you get much sense of whether you and Phil might get a little more time on the court together rather than just always one or the other?
MD: "Yeah, I mean, I hope so. I feel like there's no huge lineup in the Big 12 anymore and I feel like me and Phil are athletic enough to guard any one through three guard in the Big 12. Guys don't really post up that much. It's not the NBA, they're not going to exploit that crazy or anything like that. I love playing together with Phil. I hope that we do it a lot."
PM: There is a view outside the locker room that there may have been competition and tension between you and Phil. What was the relationship like and did you try to talk him into staying?
MD: "Contrary to popular belief, me and Phil are great friends. We go at it every day. Like I say, we're enemies on the court, we go at it pretty much every day, I mean, we're the only two point guards, but now we got (walk-on) Tony (Lester). We always went at it, but we've always been great friends off the court. He's one of my best friends on the team really, so, I mean, we're cool."
PM: You've got seven seniors. How important is it to send those guys out on a better note than the way last year ended?
MD: "That's personally my only goal is to end these guys with the best year since they've been here. Their freshman year, they had quite a year. So if we could get something beyond that and they go out like that, that helps all of them and that just gives the program a higher prestige. That's all that I want to do this year."
Nobody covers the Tigers year-round like PowerMizzou.com. Summer Sessions will continue throughout the next two weeks. If you are not yet a member, just try out our free trial.