Coach Cuonzo Martin joins Sports Xtra to talk border war renewal

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COLUMBIA — Missouri Basketball Coach Cuonzo Martin stopped by Sports Xtra with Chris Gervino to talk about the Tigers upcoming season.

Coach Martin discussed the Border War renewal, the SEC becoming a better basketball conference and Missouri's hopes and expectations this season.

The third year head coach talked about health first, which has overshadowed past basketball seasons. Coach Martin praised Junior Guard Mark Smith after coming back from injury.

"For him to be out so long, he did a great job keeping his body in shape," he said. "Most cases guys out that long see a little fatigue, but he's done a great job making the adjustment."

Coach Martin also discussed the team's high hopes for Redshirt Junior Guard Dru Smith, who transferred from Evansville and sat out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

"He's not a superhero, but he's a talented basketball player," he said. "He's a good teammate. He's a guy who really tries to be the best possible player he could become or be on both sides of the ball."

Martin called Dru Smith a "guy every program would want to have on their team."

Coach Martin also discussed developing junior forward Jeremiah Tilmon through demanding the ball more on the court.

"The thing about Jeremiah is he's got a great demeanor about him. He's a selfless guy," he said. "He wants to make his teammates happy. But the next step, I think with Jeremiah, because he's such a good guy is being more demanding on the floor; Having a presence that wants the ball without me doing it for him." 

Coach Martin commented on the excitement over the renewal of the Kansas-Mizzou rivalry.

He said he's heard from former players about their excitement.

"That's one of those games, Big Eight, Big 12, that's one of those games that should happen," Coach Martin said. "When you're talking, not only, the midwest but the whole country looks forward to a game of that magnitude as well as the bragging rights game."

Coach Martin also discussed the improvement of the SEC over the last three years.

"It's high level," he said. "I think pound for pound probably the best in the country. When you're talking to coaches, and not only them, the players, the venues, the atmospheres, I think it all makes for a great league. I think from top to bottom this has to be the best league in my opinion."

Missouri Basketball starts its season next Wednesday Nov. 6 against Incarnate Word at Mizzou Arena.