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A First for the Catholic Church. A First for America?

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
New York Archdiocese

Pope Benedict made a surprise announcement on February 11th, 2013; he would be the first Pope in modern history to step down from the position.  As a matter of fact, he will be the first Pontiff in nearly 600 years to step down and the only the fourth to voluntarily step down in the 2000 year history of the church.  And now the process must begin to pick the man who will lead one of the biggest religous groups on the planet.  And when that decision is made, a man from St. Louis could be at the helm of the Catholic Church.

The process for picking the next Pontiff will begin once Pope Benedict leaves office on February 28.  And this will not be an easy task with Cardinals from across the globe being considered for the job.  Europe is still the dominant force for the Catholic Church right now and much of the growth of Catholocism is taking place in countries NOT named the United States of Amerca.  So Vatican experts say it’s unlikely for the conclave to pick a Western Cardinal.   As a matter of fact, there has never been a Pontiff from the U.S. and that is not likely to change anytime son. But, if there was a Pope to be picked from the Americas, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese would be a front runner.  John Moody, the former Time Magazine Vatican Bureau Chief, told Fox News that Dolan has to be at least considered for this influential position.  “Cardinal Dolan has to be in any serious consideration,” Moody says. “[But] being an American is not an immediate advantage when you’re in the conclave to be pope.”

Dolan has had an eventful past few years, to say the least.  He has been one of the most outspoken and entertaining Archbishops in recent memory, making him a newsroom favorite in the media-capital of the world.  He holds nothing back, stands strong on his Catholic beliefs, and certainly isn’t afraid to tackle hot button topics.  Little do many people know that the highest profile Catholic in the United States comes from St. Louis, Missouri.

Timothy Dolan was raised in the city of Ballwin in West St. Louis County in what his family says was a typical suburban family.  He attended a small Catholic School called Holy Infant Roman Catholic Church.  I had the opportunity to meet some of his former teachers and classmates when he took the helm of the New York Archdiocese.  They say that Dolan always knew he wanted to be a Priest and there was never any doubt in their minds that he would succeed in whatever career path he choose.  Two nuns I spoke with at the school say they remembered him in class, but there was nothing extraordinary about him that led them to believe he would one day be on the cusp of leading their denomination.

It wasn’t until high school that his family says he began to prove himself as a scholar.  He attended high school at the St. Louis Preparatory Seminary in the nearby suburb of Shrewsbury , Missouri.  His college studies were only a few miles away at the Cardinal Glennon College, where he earned a degree in Philosophy.

He spent the next few decades working for the church in various capacities, eventually leading him to the posts of Auxililiary Bishop of St. Louis, Archbishop of Milwaukee, and finally the Archbishop of New York in 2009.  His election to the US Conference on Catholic Bishops and his elevation to Cardinal made world leaders take notice of the Missourians.  And now, with the world watching, Cardinal Timothy Dolan could be on the verge of doing something no American has ever done, lead the 1-billion Catholics around the world.

What’s wrong with Missouri basketball?

Let’s play a game of Sports Jeopardy, shall we?

Answers:

1.  The Top Freshman NCAA basketball player in the country, likely to be the next #1 pick.

2.  One of the top Sophomore NCAA basketball players in the country who was just named SEC player of the week.

3.  A top candidate for NCAA Sophomore of the Year, also likely to be a Top 5 NBA draft pick.

4.  The potential NBA rookie of the Year for 2013.

5.   An NBA Center making a strong case for the 2013 All Star team.

6.  An NBA Power Forward, who was also the ACC Player of the Year in 2008.

The Question?

Name a bunch of great basketball players who are from Missouri… but didn’t play at Mizzou.

In order, we are talking about (1) Ben McLemore of Wellston, (2) BJ Young of McCluer North, (3) Otto Porter of Scott County Central, (4) Bradley Beal of Chaminade, (5) David Lee of Chaminade, and (6) Tyler Hansbrough of Poplar Bluff.  They have reached the very top of their sport, yet for some reason, didn’t want to play at their state university.

Why can’t Missouri land the top prospects from Missouri?  A quick look at the 2012-13 Mizzou roster shows a disturbing trend for us Missouri high school basketball fanatics.  Of the 14 players on the roster, only 3 hail from Missouri high schools. (And one of those is the coach’s son.)  Those 3 are averaging 11 minutes per game… combined!!  The recruiters at Missouri just can’t seem to recognize the talent from our home state.  As a matter of fact, of the 7 players from Missouri high schools currently in the NBA, only Brandon Rush played at Ole’ Mizzou.

*Anthony Tolliver (Atlanta) led a dominant Kickapoo team to the state championship.  He then fled the state to Creighton.
*Bradley Beal (Washington) was the top recruit in the entire country, yet shipped off to Florida to play one year of college hoops before heading to the NBA.
*Tyler Hansbrough (Indiana) guided Poplar Bluff to the state title, then became one of the best players in the history of the storied North Carolina Tar Heels legacy.
*His brother Ben Hansbrough (Indiana) also left the state before joining his brother in the pro’s.
*David Lee (Golden State) took his 7-foot frame to Florida, then stardom in the NBA.
*Josh Harrellson left St. Charles for greener pastures in Kentucky and became an unlikely hero for the Wildcats.

Three of the top college players in the NCAA right now are stars who are playing for universities that could meet up with Mizzou at some point this season.   Otto Porter left the tiny Southeastern Missouri basketball mecca of Scott County Central to star at Georgetown.  B.J. Young became a sensation when he led McCluer North to the state title, beating Bradley Beal’s team along the way.  He landed in Arkansas, where he is a dominant force in the Southeastern Conference.  And then the biggest surprise of all comes from Wellston.   Ben McLemore came out of “nowhere” to become the top Freshman in the country playing for the hated Kansas Jayhawks.  Even  Tyler Griffey, from Lafayette High School, has started every game this season for the Illini.  That means some of the top players at Illinois, Kansas and Arkansas all come from Missouri.  Our great players have us surrounded!

Of the last 13 Mr. Show Me Basketball award winners, only 4 have gone to Mizzou.  But of those 4, 2 transferred to other schools. 

I know many people will say it doesn’t matter.  Missouri is having a great year, so who cares where the players are from?  I say it does matter, because it’s a matter of pride.  I grew up rooting for Anthony Peeler, Larry Drew, Jon Sundvold, John Brown, Steve Stipanovich, and Norm Stewart.  I had a connection with these guys because we shared a common thread.  I felt like they were a part of Missouri legend, not just passing through campus.  I still root for Mizzou.  But I suddenly find myself searching for our homegrown players to see how they are doing, no matter what state they currently play in.