By Jim Henry
PITTSBURG, Kan. — The idea of players from Big 12 rivals Kansas and Missouri working the same youth basketball camp, Missouri’s Kim English admitted he had some doubts.
“When we arrived, obviously I was skeptical,” English said. “They said it would be two MU guys and two KU guys. The only place I imagined that would work would be in Kansas City where there is really a mixture of the (fans).
“The whole time, I’m asking how far is the Missouri line (from Pittsburg). A friend of mine told me Joplin was really close, so then I thought it might be a mixture of MU and KU fans. Then when I got here and saw the red and blue basketballs, I knew it wasn’t.
“But basketball is a universal language. Kids don’t really care about the rivalry that much, I guess. They don’t care if it’s an MU guy or a KU guy. It’s still the fundamentals of the game.”
English and teammate Laurence Bowers joined Kansas’ Mario Little and Elijah Johnson on Tuesday at the third annual Jeff Boschee Basketball Clinic in the Pittsburg High School gymnasium.
Boschee, who played guard for the Jayhawks from 1998-2002, and clinic organizer David Devaney had discussed bringing players from both schools to one site for about two months.
“Nobody does it,” Boschee said. “It’s kind of a cool draw to see two MU guys and two KU guys in there.”
“It’s just basketball,” Little said. “It’s not the Civil War anymore. I’m not from Kansas or Missouri, so I don’t have a harsh feeling toward Kansas State or Missouri because I’m from Chicago.”
“On the court, I hate these guys,” Bowers said. “But off the court, they seem like pretty cool guys. I wasn’t really worried about it.”
One topic of conversation could have been which team posted the better 2008-09 season.
Missouri (31-7) and Kansas (27-8) won regular-season meetings on their home court — the Tigers 62-60 on a last-second shot and the Jayhawks by a 90-65 margin. Each earned a Big 12 championship — KU the regular-season title and MU the postseason tournament. The Tigers advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, one round farther than KU.
“I give us the edge a little bit,” English said. “We went one further round in the tournament, so I say we had the better year this year. But they have a better history.”
“We both had a good season,” Little said. “Nobody expected us to win anything. We won the Big 12 five years in a row. To Kansas fans, it’s just a regular season. They always expect us to win, to go deep into the tournament. We went to the Sweet 16 and got upset (by Michigan State).
“They accomplished their goal by making it to the Elite Eight. We didn’t accomplish our goal. We won the Big 12 but we weren’t satisfied.”
Johnson, an incoming freshman this fall at KU, doesn’t feel pressure joining a tradition-rich program.
“I don’t feel extra pressure,” he said. “I just feels right coming in. I always liked KU and the way the program works, the way the players turn out after going through the program. They have a lot of national TV games, and they have one of the best coaches (Bill Self) in the world.”
Serving on the clinic staff brought back memories for Johnson of his younger days.
“I know I’m not giving back too much, but to these kids, it means a lot to see somebody who’s going to be on TV,” Johnson said. “I remember when I was in their position, I wanted to see a top-notch college player drop in while I was in there dribbling the basketball and try to teach me something.”
Johnson said Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson were two players who came to camps he attended.
By Jim Henry
- High School Sports
- Missouri Southern Sports
- Pittsburg State Sports
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