- Dana O'Neil, College Basketball Reporter
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He’s still trying to work out the logistics, knowing full well it will be about as popular as a summertime homework assignment.
But if Frank Haith has his way, when Missouri travels to Europe this summer, his players will leave their cell phones behind.
“We want them to be able to get to know one another, to really have a bonding experience,’’ Haith said.
With good reason. Stealing a page from the Fred Hoiberg handbook, Haith this season will add four transfers to his lineup, hoping that the express route to experience will help the Tigers' transition from the graduation of their three-headed heart (Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe).
Transfers are rampant right now in college basketball, with more players switching allegiances every year. Geography, playing time, coaching changes or stylistic loggerheads are just some of the reasons fewer and fewer people are being true to their school choice.
It doesn’t necessarily look good for the game, but the choices aren’t always for the worse. Hoiberg took his recollected talent to the NCAA tournament this season, ending a seven-year drought for Iowa State.
It can work.
At least that’s what Haith half hopes and expects when he adds Keion Bell (from Pepperdine), Jabari Brown (from Oregon), Alex Oriakhi (from Connecticut), and Earnest Ross (from Auburn) to the fold this year. All but Oriakhi spent this past season on campus, able to practice and watch the Tigers up close.
“I think it can be tricky, but the thing that was good for us, these guys got to see how last year’s team won,’’ Haith said. “They saw how chemistry played such an important role to our success.’’
Haith felt like he had little choice but to look for players unhappy with their current circumstances. Hired in April of last year, the class of 2012 was either spoken for or knee deep in its final choices. He knew he’d be losing the bulk of his team -- only a season-ending knee injury allowed Laurence Bowers to return in 2012-13.
So he rolled the dice, welcoming in two seniors (Bell and Oriakhi), a junior (Ross), and a freshman that lasted just one semester at his first stop (Brown).
All come to Mizzou for different reasons. Bell, who led Pepperdine in scoring the past three seasons, wanted a chance to showcase his game at a higher level; Oriakhi left because the Huskies are no longer eligible for the postseason thanks to an APR ban; Ross, Auburn’s leading scorer and rebounder, denied Tony Barbee’s assertion that theirs was a mutual separation, instead insisting he wanted to move on. Brown, a one-time top 30 talent, left after playing just two games for Dana Altman at Oregon.
It’s a unique blend of talent (Bell and Ross led their respective teams in scoring last season) and experience that most agree will help Haith keep things going at Missouri.
If, that is, he can get all the personalities to coalesce.
“We want all of our guys to have leadership skills, but obviously these new guys have to earn respect because they haven’t done it here,’’ Haith said. “Phil Pressey, he wants the role that Kimmie had last year -- to be the vocal leader. Laurence is more like Marcus, a guy who will lead by example. I think it is our job to help them find the right way to lead.’’
He’s still trying to work out the logistics, knowing full well it will be about as popular as a summertime homework assignment.But if Frank Haith has his way, when Missouri travels to Europe this summer, his players will leave their cell phones behind.