SEC Tipoff Blog: Mizzou looks to build on early success

SEC Tipoff Blog: Mizzou looks to build on early success

11 hours ago
Kevin Scarbinsky, SEC

Photo: SEC

Welcome to the SEC Basketball Media Days Blog, your online home for the big news, behind-the-scenes notes and quotes and special moments that make this annual event, held this year in Birmingham, Ala., the unofficial start of college basketball season. Check back for updates each day throughout the week.

How to exit the starting the gate, by Dennis Gates and Missouri

Nick Honor spent one year at Fordham and three years at Clemson before transferring to Missouri a year ago. It didn’t take long for him to spot the difference. The difference was first-year Missouri coach Dennis Gates.

“You can develop trust issues with coaches,” the sixth-year senior said. “With him, it was different. He’s very transparent. It’s family before everything with him. He gives us a lot of grace. It’s hard not to like Coach Gates.”

It’s impossible not to appreciate the job Gates did in his debut season in Columbia. Missouri tied for fourth in the SEC, its best finish since joining the conference. The Tigers won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 13 years. Their 25 victories overall put Gates fifth in that category in the history of first-year SEC coaches behind only Kentucky’s Tubby Smith, John Calipari, Eddie Sutton and LSU’s Trent Johnson.

Honor was one of only two Tigers to start all 35 games. He led the team in assists and his 3.12 assist-to-turnover ratio ranked sixth in the nation. He named three favorite memories from that noteworthy season.

● The 93-71 win over historic rival Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights Classic

● The 79-71 win over Tennessee in Nashville in the SEC Tournament

● The 76-65 win over Utah State in the NCAA Tournament

Honor’s thoughts on the Dec. 22 Illinois victory stand out. He called that the day “the world started to catch on to how good we were.”

“We earned a little bit of respect last year,” Honor said, “but I believe some people still think we caught a lucky break.”

The success the Tigers enjoyed didn’t end when the season did. The Los Angeles Clippers selected Kobe Brown, a first-team All-SEC honoree and SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, with the No. 30 pick in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Gates spent NBA Draft night celebrating with Brown and his family, which includes younger brother and current Missouri Tiger Kaleb, in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. Gates said the development of Brown and D’Moi Hodge, who signed a two-way contract with the Lakers, “is a true testament to our environment.”

Missouri was picked to finish ninth in this year’s SEC preseason poll, but with leaders like Honor, Gates hasn’t lowered his goals for the program.

“We’ve never been to a Final Four,” he said. “Is this year’s team a Final Four team? I don’t know, but I guarantee you at some point we’re going to act as if that’s our destination. We’re going to try to make sure everything that we do is for that reason.”

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