Honoring the great 1993-94 Missouri team that went 14-0 in Big Eight play, the current Tigers opened their exhibition season in the 41-year-old Hearnes Center for perhaps the final time with a 73-48 victory over Oklahoma City University on Friday night.
The Tigers and 9,222 of their home faithful honored Norm Stewart’s acclaimed group of players in a ceremony before the game and Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was there with the details of the ceremony and the details of the exhibition game.
“It means a lot because a lot of these guys I haven’t seen since my last year, and it feels good to be back at the Hearnes Center and also with Coach,” said former Missouri guard Melvin Booker, who was born 16 days after the Hearnes Center opened in August 1972. “For a minute I almost teared up out there because it brought back so many memories.”
The night’s turn-back-the-clock festivities began with a scene familiar to any Missouri fan who visited the Hearnes Center over the years as Truman the Tiger repelled from the rafters to kick off the celebration.
Next up, the 1993-94 team was introduced on at a time. The crowd saved its loudest cheers for the final three players introduced, in order: Lamont Frazier, Jevon Crudup and Booker.
The current Tigers made quick work of Oklahoma City as Tulsa transfer and starting point guard looked promising running Frank Haith’s offense. Clarkson scored seven points and had six assists and zero turnovers in the first half before sitting out the second half as a precautionary measure after taking a knee to his thigh.
Earnest Ross also finished with a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds and freshman forward Johnathan Williams III scored 10 points and added seven rebounds in a solid exhibition debut.
The game was also nice for Missouri as Melvin Booker’s son and star 2014 shooting guard recruit Devin Booker was also on campus for the second straight weekend, as Matter reports that Devin filmed the ceremonies a few rows behind the bench.
When the 2013-14 season commences the Missouri Tigers will begin their tenth season at Mizzou Arena, making the move to the newer confines from the old Hearnes Center. The Tigers enjoyed some great moments at Hearnes, compiling a record of 401-72 in 31 seasons. In recent weeks there have been questions in regards to the future of Hearnes, with current athletic director Mike Alden weighing his available options.
On Wednesday it was announced that the Tigers will play one more game at Hearnes, hosting Oklahoma City University in an exhibition on October 25. The idea for the exhibition came from head coach Frank Haith, who has enjoyed a good relationship with former Missouri head coach Norm Stewart since his arrival in Columbia back in 2011.
Haith pitched the idea to MU’s administration in recent weeks and discussed the idea with Stewart and several players from that team during Stewart’s Coaches vs. Cancer golf tournament at the Lake of the Ozarks earlier this month.
“He’s been awesome to me. He’s been a mentor, a confidante,” said Haith, who serves on the board of directors for Stewart’s charity organization. “When I got the job here, there wasn’t a big parade for Frank Haith. But he reached out, we talked and he really helped me in terms of just being positive about things. I really appreciated that.”
Missouri lost its last game at Hearnes, falling to Kansas 84-82 on March 7, 2004, so the exhibition allows the program an opportunity to leave Hearnes with a win should it be the last time the Tigers play in the building (the whole “can’t leave on a miss” theory, but the Kansas game actually counted in the standings). And the game won’t be the only attraction, as Missouri will use the occasion (and Homecoming weekend) to also honor the 1993-94 Big 8 champion squad.
One of the players on that 1993-94 team was guard Melvin Booker, who won Big 8 Player of the Year as the point guard on a team that ran through conference play undefeated. His son? Devin Booker, one of the best shooters in the 2014 class and Missouri is one of the schools on his list. Devin will take his official visit Missouri the weekend prior.