November 4, 2009

KC kids ready to make an impact

A year ago at this time, Marcus Denmon was the next big thing in Missouri basketball. The in-state kid who was going to put this program on his shoulders and bring it back.

"The Black and Gold scrimmage, he poured in a bunch of points and of course everybody just kind of got real high," Mike Anderson said. "I'm one of those guys, I'm gonna be even keel on these guys because I know they've got to go through the wars to prove themselves."

Denmon scored 36 in his first appearance in front of Missouri fans. He poured in shots from all over the floor. And, though he had a solid freshman season, a season in which he hit double figures nine times (most among non-starters for the Tigers), a season in which he hit perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, a 70-foot buzzer-beater against Memphis, Denmon never again hit the hype of the Black and Gold game.

Of course, there was a reason. On May 20th, Denmon had surgery to repair a fractured kneecap.

"I had to get two pins in my knee to pull it back together so my bone could heal," Denmon said. "We aren't really sure, but (it) probably (happened) around last November or something like that. I pretty much played with it the whole year."

Denmon gutted out the injury to be a part of Missouri's 31-win, Elite Eight season. But clearly it affected him, especially as the 39-game schedule wore on. Four of Denmon's double-figure scoring games came before the Tigers hit conference play. In the final 11 games of his freshman season, Denmon never scored more than six points and twice did not have a point.

"It was something that held me back a lot last year," he admitted. "I wasn't as explosive as I could be, couldn't move a lot and do a lot of the things I'm pretty good at just because it was holding me back."

"I thought Marcus had a nice in-between game and I thought he kind of settled a lot. Hopefully that will be reflecting in his field goal percentage. I think that should go up because I think Marcus, to me, is more of a scorer than he is a shooter. That guy figures a way to get to the basket, to the free throw line," Anderson said. "I think he had to make an adjustment because he wasn't as explosive as he was when I saw him in high school."

More than half of Denmon's 212 shots last season came from beyond the three-point line. He made just 30.4% from that range.

"A shooter is someone who, like Matt Lawrence was his freshman and sophomore year, where you're just a spot up shooter and people help you get your shot," Denmon said. "A scorer is someone who can score, he can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor and get the ball in the basket a lot of different ways."

It is something Denmon hopes to be able to do a lot more of in his second season.

"I think he'll find his way," Anderson said. "He's still on the mend, he's not quite there and there's gonna be the anxiousness because when you get hurt, you wonder, how's it going to affect you when you get a lick on it? I'm sure that's in the back of his mind. But he's working. He's competing. He's competing for minutes and I like his mindset right now."

Denmon will get his first shot on Friday night. The Tigers host Truman State at 7 p.m. in the exhibition opener. will provide complete coverage of that game and of the Tigers throughout the 2009-10 season.

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