The University of Missouri community has rallied behind senior Michael Sam, which includes support from the men’s basketball team as well.
On Sunday, Sam, the 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, announced that he was gay, and could potentially be the NFL’s first openly gay player with the 2014 NFL Draft scheduled in three months.
Steve Walentik of the Columbia Daily Tribune, asked several members of the basketball team their thoughts on the news, with plenty of positive reactions.
“Happy for him coming out,” Jordan Clarkson told Walentik. “Love is love — it shouldn’t change the person, what he is. He’s a football player. That’s what he does on the field, and it shouldn’t matter what he does off the field.”
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mike Alden issued a statement of support shortly after the news broke while some fans spelled Sam’s name in the snow at Faurot Field.
“I think the Mizzou community has really done a good job of supporting him,” Sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg added. “Everywhere I go, I just hear good things about him, how everyone is so proud that he came from Mizzou and he’s really being true to himself.”
Leading scorer Jabari Brown wasn’t surprised by the reception from the rest of Mizzou, rather intrigued he announced this before May’s draft where Sam is projected to go as high as the third round.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.