COLUMBIA — Missouri’s men’s basketball team is returning to the Hearnes Center, at least for one night.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The Tigers host Oklahoma City on Friday in their exhibition opener, which has been dubbed “The Return to Hearnes.”
As part of the festivities, the 1993-94 Tigers, who rolled through the Big Eight unbeaten and reached the NCAA Elite Eight for the second time in program history, will be recognized during a pregame ceremony.
“I wanted to play a game in Hearnes, just to go back and play one ballgame,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “And we talked about coach’s team, the ’93-94 team, and it being 20 years. There’s so many great stories about that team and how they overcame a whole lot.”
Twenty years ago, the Tigers kicked off a 28-4 season with a less-than-scintillating three-point win against Central Missouri and promptly got crushed by 52 points at Arkansas in the second game played at Bud Walton Arena.
Rather than fold after absorbing that 120-68 beating, the Tigers regrouped and won 24 of the next 25 games, including a perfect 14-0 record in conference play.
“The sum of the total of that group was so much greater than the individual parts,” said former Missouri coach Norm Stewart, who was in charge of that 1993-94 squad. “It’s amazing. … They maximized their abilities together probably as well at least as any team that I had.”
Senior Melvin Booker, who averaged 18.1 points and 4.5 assists, paced that Missouri team, which also included senior Jevon Crudup and freshman Kelly Thames.
Crudup, a former Raytown South standout, averaged 13.2 points and 8.0 rebounds, while Thames chipped in 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Junior Paul O’Liney, who contributed 10.3 points per game, also played on that Missouri team, which was captained by senior Lamont Frazier.
The entire team — which also includes Mark Atkins, Julian Winfield, Jason Sutherland, Chris Heller, Marlo Finner and Derek Grimm — is scheduled to appear.
“Usually, when you have these kinds of things, there’s always one guy or two guys that can make it, but we’ve got the whole team and the team managers both are coming back too,” Haith said. “That tells you a lot about that team.”
Haith hopes some of that team’s character and its will to overcome adversity will rub off on the 2013-14 version of the Tigers.
“I want those guys to talk to their team,” Haith said. “There’s a lot (they can get from that). You listen to coach and what those guys went through and what they accomplished and how to handle adversity.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.