Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith didn’t need to be reminded how good Sprint Center has been to his program.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
“We got a win streak going,” Haith said.
Five games and counting, all from the 2011-12 season. Missouri will look to extend the success on Nov. 16 when it meets Hawaii as part of the Tigers’ 2013-14 nonconference schedule, which was announced Monday.
The game will mark the Tigers’ first appearance in Kansas City since they joined the Southeastern Conference last year, though there was something of an SEC feel to its last trip to KC.
When the Tigers beat Baylor to capture the 2012 Big 12 tournament, Mizzou fans at Sprint Center chanted “SEC” in the game’s waning moments. Missouri had announced its new league affiliation about five months earlier.
That year the Tigers blasted two opponents in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic and swept three Big 12 foes.
But as Missouri’s first season in the SEC unfolded, there was uncertainty about the Tigers’ return to Kansas City for a men’s basketball or football game.
The hoop schedule for 2012-13 was set without a regular-season game at Sprint Center, and there would be no March conference tournament visit.
Tigers’ fans held out hope that Mizzou would be assigned to the NCAA Tournament second- and third-round regional site in Kansas City, with the prospect of meeting rival Kansas in the postseason.
But the Jayhawks were sent to Kansas City and Mizzou shipped to Lexington, Ky.
“This is a first step,” Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said. “Kansas City is very important to us.”
Before he joined Missouri boosters at the annual Kansas City Tiger Club golf outing at Oakwood Country Club on Friday, Alden met with Chiefs officials and the Kansas City Sports Commission to discuss future scheduling.
Nonconference football scheduling is on hold beyond 2014, Alden said, because the SEC will continue to have conversations about an eight- or nine-game league schedule.
In basketball, without a trip in March — the SEC is considering bringing its league tournament to St. Louis but not Kansas City — the Tigers have to look at November or December dates for a return to the city where its program has played more games than any outside of Columbia.
With Missouri and Illinois locked in the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis through 2017, and the Tigers playing an 18-game SEC schedule, fewer nonconference opportunities exist.
“It’s not an easy thing,” Haith said. “But we’re going to try and find a way to get back here as much as we can.”
Four of the top eight scorers return from last season, led by shooting guards Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross. But with Phil Pressey gone, who will play the point?
“That’s going to be a big question,” Haith said.
Freshmen Wes Clark and Shane Rector will get a shot, but looming as the most valuable newcomer is Jordan Clarkson, a combination guard who transferred from Tulsa.
“Do we want the freshmen out there from the get-go?” Haith said. “Time will tell how much load either of them can carry. But it’s nice to have Jordan Clark on your team to kind of give those guys a chance and not throw them to the wolves right away.”