Fueling the Fire
COLUMBIA -- Mizzou guards Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey spent part of their summer playing at camps hosted by NBA players Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Lebron James. In this week's edition of Blumberg off the Bench, KOMU 8's Eric Blumberg tells us how the team has extra motivation for next season.
This year, Mizzou basketball had two players selected in the NBA draft for the first time since 1989. Projections for next season could see Missouri with even more than two. But first, the team is spending the summer getting to know each other.
Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey are the only two Tigers on this season's team that played last season. Their 30 win campaign is mostly remembered for ending with an NCAA nightmare against Norfolk State.
Dixon told us, "In reality it's a basketball game. It's not the end of the world." Pressey said, "Once the jump ball of the new season, I feel like that's when I'm going to get it out of my head. Right now that's all I can think of because that's our last game."
Dixon uses that dissapointment to drive his daily desire. "I put Kyle O'Quinn, the center that destroyed us in that game, as my picture on my phone so that everyday when I wake up I have to look at him. That just drives me. That's motivation."
His motivation has an outlet this summer. A new NCAA rule allows college basketball teams to practice with coaches for two hours per week for eight weeks during summer school. Phil Pressey explained, "We're allowed to work with the coaches a lot more. That's helped us out a lot with the young guys and the transfers that come in so they get acqainted with each other and they see how hard we have to work to get where we want to be." UCONN transfer and senior Alex Oriakhi said, "That's going to help tremendously. I don't have to wait for the regular practice time in the fall. I can just get to know the plays in the summer time. That will help team chemistry."
Chemistry is always a concern when you have so many new faces in new places. "With all the new guys we're really talented. Now it's just a matter of if we're going to gel or not", said Dixon. One of the new talents, Alex Oriakhi, said "I feel like I'm the point guard on defense. I have to be as loud as possible. When guys are going to set a pick for my guard i want them to know. I just want the guys to know I have their back at all times." Dixon told us, "He's a funny guy... he's a character. He's always joking around and stuff like that. Je's the big guy we've been needing for a long time here I think."
So while Oriakhi fills a gap, Dixon hopes to avoid another Kyle O"Quinn trap. He said, "Everyday when I wake up I have to look into that big guys' eyes. I think it just adds fuel to the fire."
Alex Oriakhi won a national title playing at UCONN in 2011... just don't expect his Mizzou teammates to want a look at his championship ring... Dixon says he'd rather get his own.
The team will have a good chance to get to know each other when the guys go on a European trip in August.