News and notes: Missouri basketball preps for trip to Italy

Terrence Phillips: “Strength and conditioning has been times 40. That’s no exaggeration.”
Missouri guard Terrence Phillips (1) gives Rhyan Loos a fist bump after handing her a team-signed game ball following the win against Tennessee for the Rally for Rhyan game Feb. 13.

Terrence Phillips stood against the freshly-painted wall within Mizzou Arena’s scorching press room on Tuesday and began to talk about Italy.

Come Aug. 5, when the entire Missouri basketball team takes their quadrennial international trip to “the boot,” the sophomore point guard will return to where he lived more than eight years ago with his mom, Alice Knox, and half-brother and NBA point guard Brandon Jennings.

“I have some very fun memories of being there,” Phillips said. “I remember seeing my brother go through what he went through being the No. 1 player in high school and not really playing [in Italy] but keeping that motivation to work, and I’m very looking forward to going back.”

Phillips is also excited about this year. The team had held three of their 10 true workouts this summer and on Tuesday, the team would begin their first of a seven-day stretch of them. Thus far, Phillips said the practices “have been a lot better this year.”

“Guys are competing times 10, guys are getting after it, guys want to be here, guys want to play and guys want to win,” Phillips said. “Everything we do, every drill we do, every guy is competing. When guys lose, they’re upset and want to go again. My biggest thing this year is guys are just competing this year, and that’s a huge thing.”

Along with last year’s teammates, Phillips is joined by five freshmen: Willie Jackson, Frankie Hughes, Jordan Geist, Mitchell Smith and Reed Nikko (who has been out with a hip injury). After losing six players — four transferred, one was dismissed and one graduated — this new-look roster has brought intensity, coach Kim Anderson said.

Anderson is heading into a critical third season at the helm of the Tigers’ program, and for the first time, every player on the roster was recruited by him. This Italy trip will be the first he’s taken as Missouri’s coach, and since he played professionally for three seasons for Libertas Forli from 1977–80, he said he’s looking forward to going back.

Anderson said he will get to see a former teammate and is looking forward to eating his favorite Italian food: gnocchi. Even more than that, though, he’s ready to see his team gel as they play four games against Lithuanian college team LLC International on Aug. 7 in Rome, Lithuanian club team BC Silute on Aug. 9 in Montecatini, Italian team Vicenza Select on Aug. 12 in Vicenza, and the Kosovo national team on Aug. 13 in Costa Masagna.

While basketball is a priority on the trip, Anderson said a professor will come along and teach a class that the team is taking. Between games, they will visit the Vatican, the leaning tower of Pisa and will wrap up on a cruise on Lake Como. Ultimately, he said he thinks it’s going to be a great trip.

“We’re all looking forward to it, and we’re going to get a chance to experience a lot of neat things,” Anderson said. “It’s not about who we’re playing, it’s about us and how can we get better. Hopefully, we’ll get better as a team and learn to play together better.”

New strength

In May, Nick Michael was hired to man strength and conditioning for Missouri’s men’s basketball team after Matt Herring was fired. Players have lauded the intensity of Michael, who worked at VCU under Shaka Smart, who is now the men’s basketball coach at Texas. Missouri junior guard Jordan Barnett, a transfer from Texas, played for Smart last year and spoke on how the strength and conditioning programs compare.

“I mean, coach Michael brings a whole new aspect to this team that we haven’t experienced,” Barnett said. “Sometimes we go into his workouts and say, man, we might die today, but it’s definitely helping us get bigger and stronger.”

Phillips also spoke of Michael saying: “Strength and conditioning has been times 40. That’s no exaggeration.”

”Junkyard Dog” speaks

Freshman guard Willie Jackson spoke confidently Tuesday about his team and his experience at Missouri, saying that the sophomores have treated the freshmen “like we were older.”

Jackson also talked about how impressed he was with former Missouri basketball player DeMarre Carroll, who is nicked the “junkyard dog” due to his tenacity on court. Carroll, who plays in the NBA for the Toronto Raptors, visited Missouri a week ago and Jackson said he was an inspiration.

“He made me even more confident that if he can do it, I can do it,” Jackson said. “And if I can do it, I feel the rest of my teammates can do it, and his speech made me really want to push. When he was in college he was a leader, and that’s what I look at. I want to be a leader and go hard in everything I do.”

The future

Hours after Missouri’s pre-Italy press conference, one of the top Tigers targets, Althoff Catholic senior shooting guard Jordan Goodwin, announced his top seven schools. Missouri made the cut, and Goodwin told Rivals.com that he’s looking to make a decision on his birthday, Oct. 23.

On Missouri, Goodwin said to Rivals: “The coaching staff is great — coach Anderson and coach [Corey] Tate. Coach Tate and I have a great relationship. He used to coach the St. Louis Eagles, so he’s like a father to me.”

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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