COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Mizzou men's basketball coach Dennis Gates is getting ready for his second season at the helm of Tiger basketball. In year one, he set the bar high, going 25-10 overall, making the program's first appearance in an SEC Tournament semifinal and winning MU's first NCAA Tournament game in 13 years. However, one of the messages of Monday's media day was that this is a new season and the slate is clean.
"We're in the infant stages of a program. I truly believe we have a ways to go, but it's a great way to begin and I don't want to over-sell or overlook how difficult it is, not only last year, but this upcoming season. Our schedule is entirely different than it was last year. Last year we had a slow build up into competition, this year I want to throw our guys into a high level of competition," Gates said.
You can watch the full press conference with Gates in the video player below.
The Tigers returned six players from last season: guards Nick Honor, Sean East and Kaleb Brown, forwards Noah Carter and Aidan Shaw, as well as center Mabor Majak. However, there will be a mix of new faces on the court alongside them.
In the offseason, Gates brought on some key pieces via the transfer portal. The highlights include Oral Roberts transfer center Connor Vanover, Indiana transfer guard Tamar Bates, Colorado State transfer guard John Tonje, Campbell transfer forward Jesus Carralero Martin, Iowa State transfer guard Caleb Grill and others.
You can watch the full interview with Tonje in the video player below.
Carter said he is excited about the mix of guys that are in Columbia for the upcoming season. He said that all of those guys are going to make an instant impact on the court. He added that bonding and building that connectivity with all of those new guys started on day one, which was June 6.
"As soon as we got on campus, just starting our bonding together," he said. "Just really deep diving into the core and finding, you know, so we can connect as a brotherhood and really being able to know each other, knowing everything from the past. Being able to really know your teammate and know your brother is probably the main thing."
You can watch the full interview with Carter in the video player below.
That connection is what multiple transfers said they were looking for in a new home. Both Vanover and Grill said that when they entered the transfer portal, finding a family atmosphere was at the top of the list for what they wanted in a new program. They both said they found that with Coach Gates and his staff.
"I really did not think I was going to come back to college," Vanover said. "The family atmosphere and the togetherness that they had it's something I've really never experienced before and so that really sold me."
You can watch the full interview with Vanover in the video player below.
Although there was success in Gates' first season, East made the point that the 2023-24 Tigers have not done anything yet. The group is wiping the slate clean for the upcoming season and, once again, setting their sights on the National Championship in Phoenix.
Despite that aforementioned success, Tiger players still feel like they are being a bit overlooked as a program.
"I saw a newspaper that had us 13th in the SEC, so, you know, we're just gonna let that fuel us," Carter said. "They're gonna have to pay us with respect and hopefully we'll be getting paid soon."
Mizzou does have a lot of transfers, but there is also a lot of experience on the roster. Eight guys are either seniors or graduate students. Multiple guys are in their final year of eligiblity.
"When you have expereince, they know how to win and when they know how to win, they're hard to beat down in stretches of games," Grill said. "I think we have a lot of winners on our team. We have players that have played in multiple NCAA Tournaments and bringing all those guys apart of this program is valuable to the aspect of what we want to achieve this season."
You can watch the full interview with Grill in the video player below.
One of the guys bringing in the most experience is Honor. Just one year ago, he was one of those transfers, as he came over from Clemson for Gates' first season. He has an understanding of the high goals that Gates and his staff set for the program, which includes a National Championship, and he's been communicating that to the newcomers.
"We talk about standards over feelings a lot. Whatever our team standards are, we stick with it. Regardless of what's going on, we make sure we're going above those standards when we're practicing or working out," he said.
You can watch the full interview with Honor, as well as East in the video players below.
The Tigers will get a chance to try to meet those standards, beginning on Nov. 6. The Tigers will meet Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the season opener at Mizzou Arena at 7 p.m.
The players said it is going to feel good to go up against somebody else, after beating up on each other for so long.
"Everybody's antsy," Shaw said. "We're just ready. You can feel the energy, so as long as we just keep pushing each other, we'll be ready for the first game and so on."
You can watch the full interview with Shaw in the video player below.