COLUMBIA — The first question asked of Missouri men’s basketball coach Frank Haith at his Monday news conference led him to commend a Tiger outside of his own locker room.
By MEGAN K. ARMSTRONG
Special to The Star
“I’ve met Michael (Sam), and I’m very proud of him,” Haith said. “I’m proud of our university. What is says is that we have tremendous leadership also within our football program. That, you know, what Gary (Pinkel) has done with that locker room, keeping the locker room the way he held that locker room, it says a lot about him. The way our university has handled it, it’s just, I’m very proud to be a part of this university.”
When asked a follow-up question about what the significance of a “young, African-American male” coming out in a major sport, Haith responded:
“Obviously, the way (the football team’s) season played out and the way his teammates carry themselves, I think Gary laid a footprint on how to handle it. I think that this says the courage that young man has is phenomenal. To do what he is done, I think you can only just applaud him. And again, applaud our football program and our leadership.”
Haith’s focus then shifted to a topic nowhere near as pleasant: his team’s current three-game losing streak. Missouri’s most recent loss was at Mississippi on Saturday, dropping the Tigers to 16-7 overall and 4-6 in the Southeastern Conference.
“We do gotta win games,” Haith said. “There’s no doubt about it. I think our RPI has jumped over the last week or so, and I think we may have the third highest in the league, or the fourth. So, we’re still in play. We just gotta win some games.
“I don’t know if anybody in the league has played more road games than we’ve played so far. With eight games left, we’ve got five of them at home.”
The first of those five home games is versus Arkansas this Saturday. The Tigers’ last win came in Fayetteville, Ark., on Jan. 28, beating the Razorbacks 75-71. In the upcoming matchup, Haith doesn’t plan on making any changes to the starting lineup of forwards Jonathan Williams III and Ryan Rosburg and guards Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross.
“I don’t think it matters who starts,” Haith said. “As a coach, that’s the way I feel. From a rotational standpoint, I don’t know. We don’t have a lot of perimeter depth because if I was to do that, I would start Wes (Clark). … But we will play that lineup as we did in that game because I think that’s our best offensive lineup.”
“Throughout the game, things change,” said Clark, a freshman guard. “We having some more problems right now, some more humps that we have to get over. So, we’re just trying to take on the obstacles.”