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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Life will go on without Rush

Sunday, June 30, 2002

"With the 20th pick of the 2002 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select Kareem Rush from the University of Missouri."

And with those words, Mizzou's NCAA Final Four hopes for next year are probably gone.

Rush led the Tigers to the Regional Finals in this year's tournament before falling to Oklahoma one game before the Final Four.

Many thought that if Rush returned then, Mizzou could be a national championship contender.

Well, Rush is gone, point guard Wesley Stokes transferred, guard Duane John was expelled from school and a 7-foot Lithuanian recruit fell through.

So all hope is lost right?

Not so fast my friend.

Mizzou will definitely be a longshot contender next year, but they weren't supposed to make it to the Elite Eight this year either.

The Tigers return the explosive Rickey Paulding, forwards Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant, and swingman Najeeb Echols.

They also have three big-time recruits coming to school including Vashon High School's Jimmy McKinney, prized JUCO recruit Rickey Clemons and Jamaican Kevin Young.

The Tigers could have a dominating frontline if Johnson and Bryant continue to improve. And they could have one of the most exciting backcourts in the country if McKinney and Clemons live up to the hype.

I'm a full Quin Snyder supporter.

I believe in his recruiting and certainly his handling of the program. However, I still think he has some things to learn as a Division I head coach as far as game situations are concerned.

But what is there not to like about the guy? He is an outstanding public relations person, so much so that he was a guest analyst on TNT for the draft. He's very articulate and you know the dude is intelligent coming from Duke.

He is a crafty recruiter. He doesn't just recruit the top athletes, he recruits the top student-athletes. Also I feel you must close the borders on your own state to be successful.

Some have gotten away but he's gotten two of the best in the last four years in Rush and McKinney. And he doesn't waste scholarships on people that can't help.

Mizzou's talent hasn't been this high since the late 1980s.

And I think the fact that he turned down the Washington Huskies to stay here says something about his loyalty.

Also, Rush, along with Keyon Dooling in 2000, became the second Tiger in three years to be drafted in the first round. The last time that happened was in 1991 and 1992 when Doug Smith and Anthony Peeler were drafted respectively.

Jevon Crudup was picked in the second round in 1994.

So there's a six year gap in between draft picks -- way too long a drought for a major college program. And in those six years Mizzou put out some pretty weak teams and even worse players.

That was the time when clowns like Danny Allouche, Dibi Ray and L. Dee Murdock were leading the charge.

Not exactly names to remember in Tiger lore.

In Norm Stewart's heyday as the head coach, Missouri had 14 players selected in the draft from 1980-89. They had 11 players chosen in the 1970s. Stewart eventually lost the touch in recruiting and only three were taken in the 1990s. He couldn't close the borders, letting studs like Tyronn Lue, Larry Hughes and Derek Hood get away.

But since Coach Q has taken over, the talent level has risen drastically at Ole' Mizzou. It has risen so much that both Dooling and Rush left school early to enter the draft.

The Tigers survived Dooling's defection. Now they must survive Rush's, who in my opinion, is the greatest Tiger since Peeler or Smith.

Quin hasn't had incredible success yet, other than this year's surprising run in the tournament, but I'm looking forward to the upcoming years.