COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- After a disappointing season that included a 16-16 record and several off-court problems, the Missouri Tigers opened practice Wednesday with a clean slate, a bunch of new faces and a new attitude.
Coach Mike Anderson said he hoped his returning players would step up and provide leadership for a crop of newcomers who have shown up in good shape and ready to hit the court. Even the veteran players noticed the conditioning of their new teammates.
"These guys can run," junior guard J.T. Tiller said Wednesday. "I came in here after watching coach Anderson at UAB thinking that I could run, but they can really run."
Missouri lost five players from last year -- four who used up their eligibility, and sophomore Keon Lawrence, who decided to transfer to Seton Hall this summer. The departures leave Anderson looking for more of a contribution from his recent recruiting class.
Newcomers include guards Miguel Paul, Kim English and Marcus Denmon, and forwards Steve Moore and Laurence Bowers, plus transfers Keith Ramsey and Zaire Taylor.
While the season officially begins Friday, Anderson's team got an early start during an exhibition trip to Canada during Labor Day weekend. The trip allowed the veterans and the newcomers to get used to each other's playing habits.
"It was a real good opportunity to gel with each other and for us young guys to get our feet wet and adjust to playing with some of the older guys," Bowers said.
Ultimately, both the new and veteran Tigers hope to keep the focus on the team's on-court performance.
"We got a lot of guys out here who are willing to do anything to win, and that is going to be a reflection of Coach," forward Leo Lyons said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)