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July 29, 2006

Notebook: 40 minutes of hell is being revisited



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At Arkansas it was known as "40 minutes of hell." They called it "the fastest 40 minutes of basketball" at UAB. Missouri fans haven't gotten a chance to take a crack at the next label yet, but new coach Mike Anderson promises they will.

Anderson says he plans to employ the same style of play with the Tigers.

That means constant full-court pressure. Defensive traps in every corner. Pushing the pace at all times.

"We are going to try and play the way we have always played," Anderson told Rivals.com. "It's going to be a process, and I'm going to have to be patient with the first part, but we are going to get at it. We will pick up at 94 feet and play up-tempo."

That type of approach must sound familiar to SEC fans.

They watched Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl bring his brand of "controlled chaos" to the SEC last season. Pearl helped turn the Volunteers from a losing team to SEC East champs.

Anderson's believes his system will work in the Big 12, and he has established a pattern of success.

In 1980, Nolan Richardson landed his first Division I head coaching job at Tulsa. One of his first moves was to convince Anderson, then a scrappy, undersized point guard, to join him. The two had faced each other in the final of the national junior college tournament earlier that year.

Anderson was the prefect fit for Richardson's team. They pressed nonstop and constantly subbed players in and out. Their offense was built on easy baskets, and opponents began wearing down in the final minutes.

Tulsa ended up winning the NIT that year. The next season produced a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Anderson became an assistant on Richardson's staff at Tulsa and followed him to Arkansas in 1985. There, they made their frenetic style of play famous. The system carried the Razorbacks to the 1994 national title.

"I've seen how the blueprint played out with coach Richardson at Tulsa and Arkansas and what it did at UAB," Anderson said. "Now I envision taking what we did and using it at Mizzou."

Anderson inherits a team lean on talent but full of hunger. The Tigers are coming off their second consecutive losing season, a 12-16 collapse that was marred by the midseason departure of coach Quin Snyder, who resigned before the school could fire him.

To make matters worse, leading scorer Thomas Gardner (19.7 points per game), who was upset about how Snyder was treated, bolted early for the NBA and went undrafted.

"We feel we need to prove we are better than what we have shown," junior forward Marshall Brown said. "We know we are capable of doing much better.

"We lost some people, but we have a good nucleus coming back. When coach Anderson called to tell me he was going to be our coach I got excited. I like his style of play and we needed a change."

Brown and junior guard Jason Horton are the only two returning starters. Senior guard Marcus Watkins (the son of assistant coach Melvin Watkins, who was the interim head coach after Snyder left) and junior power forward Kalen Grimes also played significant minutes last season.

Anderson and his staff have put together a solid five-man recruiting class, highlighted by three-star guard Keon Lawrence. Ranked the No. 23 shooting guard in the class of 2006, Lawrence was originally recruited by Snyder. Holding on to the Newark, N.J., prospect was one Anderson's first big steps.

"Keon is a pure scorer," said Brown, who has been playing against his new teammate in pick-up games. "He is a really good combo guard who can also handle the ball. He'll contribute."

Anderson also went out and landed two of the nation's top junior college players. Stefhon Hannah and Darryl Butterfield should contribute immediately. Anderson also brought in three-star forward J.T. Tiller, who originally signed with UAB.

"I like J.T.'s toughness and his basketball I.Q. so much that we signed him twice," Anderson said.

Some of the biggest questions don't surround Anderson's roster, but his ability to coach in a major conference. ACC and SEC schools passed up the chance to hire him in recent years, often choosing less experienced candidates.

Anderson thinks he has the answer for his critics, and he has reason to be confident. In the two seasons before four Conference USA schools moved to the Big East in 2005-06, the Blazers enjoyed their most success. Anderson's teams posted back-to-back 22-win seasons and won three NCAA Tournament games.

"I'll be ready for the Big 12 because of the year I was in Conference USA two years ago," he said. "We had some tremendous programs in the league back then from Cincinnati, Louisville (which reached the Final Four that season), Marquette and Charlotte.

"That was one of the premier leagues in the country and it was a war every night, much like it will be in the Big 12."

BLOCKIN' MOROCCAN GIVES HIS SIDE

Former Georgia center Younes Idrissi was shocked when he logged on to a computer last month from his native Morocco and read a press release stating that the SEC school would not be renewing his scholarship.

Idrissi knew he wasn't coming back. But the 6-7 pound power forward said he wanted to leave and that coach Dennis Felton and members of his staff ignored several requests for a release from his letter-of-intent. Idrissi said the school is making it seem as if he did something to warrant a dismissal.

"The press release is definitely making it sound like they didn't want me back," Idrissi told Rivals.com. "That does not agree with me."

The press release did not give a reason for Idrissi and the program partying ways, but it did include a quote from Felton which read, "In order for our program to continue with its growth and development, we need everyone to put forward an honest effort in being responsible as student-athletes and devoted to our mission of excellence. Although it's not going to work out with Younes to continue on our team, we wish him the best in future endeavors."

Idrissi said he came to Felton after Georgia's 84-48 blowout win over Savannah State on Dec. 3 and told him he was upset with his lack of playing time and wanted to transfer. Idrissi had played eight or fewer minutes in four of the Bulldogs' first six games.

Idrissi said Felton convinced him to stay and his playing time began to increase. He ended up being the Bulldogs' best post player by the second half of the season, scoring in double figures in five of their last 10 games and averaging a team-high 1.5 blocks per game.

Still, Idrissi wanted out of Athens when the season came to a close.

"I told (coach Felton) I didn't want to be part of the team anymore after I took my finals in May - that I was going back home (to Morocco) to visit my sick grandmother," Idrissi said. "I kept calling and e-mailing the coaches for three or four weeks, but nobody would answer me. Finally, I wrote to some of the athletic directors and athletic director Damon Evans got back to me and set up my official release."

Idrissi said he has been in contact with coaching staffs at Baylor, Georgia State, Iona and New Orleans. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

"I want to go somewhere with good coaches and teammates," he said. "Somewhere with good academics and where playing time is available. I don't want it given to me. I will work like crazy to earn my spot."

INTERNATIONAL TRIPS = EXTRA PRACTICE TIME

Coaches are all around the country are a little jealous of Wake Forest's Skip Prosser.

The Deacons are making a trip to the Bahamas to play two exhibition games in early September and, per NCAA rules, they are allowed to hold 10 practices beginning Aug. 23. North Carolina made a similar trip last offseason while trying to recover from the loss of all five starters from its 2004-05 national title team.

Few teams can make a case for needing the extra practice more than the Deacons. Six of their top seven scorers are gone from last season. The roster has been revamped with the addition of a six-man recruiting class that landed at No. 10 in Rivals.com's team rankings.

The Deacons could gain another advantage by playing South Florida on Dec. 29 in the St. Pete Times Forum, which will host the 2007 ACC Tournament, in Tampa. No other current players in the ACC have played in the venue.

The second game on Wake's schedule will pit Prosser against his son, Mark, who is an assistant for Bucknell. The Bisons, which have never faced an ACC school, host Wake in their season opener on Nov. 14. The two schools will play in Winston-Salem, N.C., the following two seasons.

Earlier this week the Big Ten released the roster for its Foreign Tour, which will take 11 players from 10 of the league's schools on a tentative four-game exhibition tour in Australia Aug. 8-18. Michigan's Tommy Amaker will be the coach, and he is taking two of his players - guard Jerret Smith and small forward Lester Abram. The other spots are filled by Illinois' Marcus Arnold, Indiana's Roderick Wilmont, Iowa's Seth Gorney, Michigan State's Travis Walton, Minnesota's Jonathan Williams, Northwestern's Tim Doyle, Ohio State's Ron Lewis, Penn State's Michael Walker and Purdue's Gordon Watt.

Wisconsin is heading to Italy for a five-game tour against Italian professional teams Aug. 17-27. Their freshmen - Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon and J.P. Gavinski are not allowed to make the trip per NCAA rules.

VIRGINIA FRESHMAN SAYS I DO

Virginia may have received a big boost when recruit Solomon Tat, a 6-5 guard from Stockbridge, Ga., got married in May.

The native Nigerian, who is ranked the No. 114 prospect in the class of 2006, committed to the Cavaliers in September but never signed a letter-of-intent because issues concerning his ability to obtain a visa arose.

But Tat married his longtime girlfriend, Aliah, two moths ago, and he enrolled in summer classes at UVa in early July. He's expected to receive word soon from the NCAA Clearinghouse that he will be eligible to play next season.

The four other freshmen in the Cavaliers' incoming recruiting class are all taking classes and have reached academic requirements.

Trivia Question: Name the nine teams that have reached the last eight NCAA Tournaments? Hint: No major conference has produced more than two of the teams and one of the teams does not belong to a major conference. (Answer at the bottom.)

Quick hits

It looks like Georgetown coach John Thompson III expects at least one of the two juniors in his starting frontcourt, Jeff Green or Roy Hibbert, to turn pro after next season. The Hoyas don't have a scholarship to give out, but they have offered one and are heavily recruiting senior Chris Wright, a five-star guard from the Washington, D.C. area who previously committed to N.C. State before coach Herb Sendek left.

Former four-star recruit Bryan Harvey transferred to Fresno State. Harvey, a 6-5 shooting guard from Compton, Calif., was ranked the No. 37 prospect in the class of 2005. He played sparingly in 18 games as a freshman for Louisville last season. He'll sit out this upcoming season and have three years of eligibility remaining.

Arkansas' director of basketball operations Darren Sorenson and Nevada assistant Josh Newman are two of the four candidates for the Arkansas-Fort Smith head coaching job. Jeremy Cox left the position to join Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie's staff. Sorenson and Newman have both been interviewed.

Georgetown hasn't released its official schedule yet, but three of the non-conference opponents are Baylor, Towson and Winston-Salem State.

Former Oklahoma State forward Torre Johnson was charged with a DUI and driving with a suspended license in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, just four days after he was released from the team for unspecified reasons. Johnson averaged 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds a game last season.

UCLA guard Arron Afflalo, who pulled out of the NBA Draft to return for his junior year, suffered a left foot injury and will be out for the next five to seven weeks. Afflalo led the Bruins with 15.8 points per game last season.

Maryland junior James Gist and incoming freshman Greivis Vasquez have been two of the most impressive players at the Kenner College League at Georgetown. Gist is averaging 23 points per game and Vasquez is averaging 15.

Miami (Ohio) University locked up coach Charlie Coles to a three-year extension through the 2008-09 season. Coles is entering his 11th season at the MAC school and needs 42 wins to become the school's all-time winningest coach.

Nebraska coach Barry Collier is one of three finalists for the athletic director job at his alma mater, Butler. Collier played at the Indianapolis school and also coached there from 1989-2000.

Cincinnati guard Dominic Tilford is leaving the Big East school. He averaged 2.5 points in 7.4 minutes a game as a freshman last season.

Answer to trivia question: Arizona, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Texas and Wisconsin.



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