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