Columbia. Mo. Mike Anderson's first impression of Missouri forward Leo Lyons was not a good one.
When Anderson arrived at Missouri from Alabama-Birmingham last spring after replacing the fired Quin Snyder, he thought the long-armed Kansas City, Kan., native was lazy. Even Lyons doesn't disagree.
"Yeah, I was lazy," Lyons said.
It took just a few days working with the new coach to change that. In workouts last spring, Anderson, who pledged to bring his "40 minutes of hell" style to Missouri, had his new players run, run and run some more.
"They're going to do as much as you demand from them," said Anderson, whose Tigers are off to a 5-0 start heading into today's game against Stephen F. Austin (2-2) at Mizzou Arena. "I had to do some things to get his (Lyons') attention."
As a freshman on Missouri's 12-16 team from a year ago, Lyons played less than 10 minutes in 25 games. Overall, he averaged less than three points per game.
Things are different so far this season, with Lyons averaging nearly 20 minutes, 10 points and six rebounds per game.
In Missouri's 81-75 win over Davidson Nov. 19, Lyons was the first Tiger off the bench and played perhaps his best collegiate game, scoring 18 points with eight rebounds.
"Leo has really stepped up," forward Marshall Brown said. "Most importantly, he's been playing great defense. I think his scoring has come because of his defense."
Lyons said Anderson's up-tempo pressure defense is a good fit for him. He's also been helped by the faith the new coach has shown in him.
"He gave me so much attention," Lyons said. "He was on me every single day. After practice we'd have a close talk. That did a lot."
One of those talks came less than a week before the season began, and it wasn't pleasant. Anderson had to tell Lyons he was suspended indefinitely for violating team academic policy. He didn't dress for the Tigers' two exhibition games.
When he played in the season-opener against North Carolina A&T; Nov. 10, he scored 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting.
The suspension "clicked something in my head, it was a wake-up call for me," Lyons said. "I appreciate what he did for me - well, now I appreciate it."