The following excerpt comes from Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the “bible” of college basketball now in its 32nd printing. Edited by SEC Digital Network contributor Chris Dortch, Blue Ribbon is a 400-page preview that features full stories on 345 Division I teams. To order a copy, go to www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 877-807-4857.
As they join a new conference, the 2012-13 Missouri Tigers are taking a page out of the book of one of their new league brethren. Every season, Kentucky rebuilds virtually an entire roster to live up to lofty expectations. In his second year, Mizzou coach Frank Haith finds himself charged with the same task.
The Wildcats usually find themselves rebuilding because of a mass exodus to the NBA Draft. The Tigers have to rebuild after losing five seniors from last year’s 30-5 team that was one of the nation’s biggest surprises.
In Haith’s first season, the Tigers used just seven players regularly, thanks to a depleted roster and non-existent recruiting class left behind when Mike Anderson took the Arkansas job. Senior-to-be Laurence Bowers tore an ACL in practice in October and left Haith with few options.
The 2012-13 Tiger team will be the exact opposite. Haith has plenty of options ... but most are new to Mizzou.
"It's a lot different than last year," Haith said. "We can do a lot of different things. I like that. The challenge, I think, is exciting for us as a coaching staff being creative and being someone who can do a lot of different things. When you game plan us, we can be versatile in how we play."
Haith’s approach to rebuilding his roster was simple: Hit the recruiting trail and take a ton of transfers.
“This is the school of transfers apparently,” said Alex Oriakhi, one of six players now at Missouri after beginning his collegiate career somewhere else. Oriakhi (6.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg in 2011-12), a 6-9, 255-pound senior, played his first three seasons at Connecticut and was a regular contributor for the Huskies. But when UConn was banned from postseason play because of a substandard Academic Progress Rate (APR), its seniors were free to seek other options. Oriakhi did, landing at Mizzou, where he will reunite with childhood friend and AAU teammate Phil Pressey.
Oriakhi joins 6-4 senior guard Keion Bell and 6-5 junior swingman Earnest Ross as transfers who will be expected to help the Tigers immediately. One of the two will probably start, while the other will serve as the Tigers’ sixth man, a role Dixon filled last year when he scored more points than any player in college basketball who did not start a game.
“I'd probably say Earnest,” Oriakhi said when asked who had impressed him the most among Mizzou’s new faces. “He's a very good defender, can shoot the ball, can drive to the basket, can pass, rebound. He does a little bit of everything, so I think he's going to be a big asset to this team and I think the fans are going to really like him a lot.