The Border Showdown
I’ve never been one of those guys that remembers every moment from every game. But I can tell you one thing for a fact: I remember every single moment from every single game I ever played against Missouri to this very day.
Whether we’re talking about the feeling in the locker room before going out there or the emotions after walking off the court — those memories are engrained in my mind forever.
Those games were more meaningful to me for so many reasons that go far beyond the historical context of the rivalry. Deep down, I’ve always believed rivalries push you to be better. You spend all summer working out, thinking about a certain team you’re looking forward to competing against.
Of course, winning a Big 12 title or making a deep run in the NCAA tournament always topped the list of goals, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t draw a huge circle around our game with Missouri every year.
That’s the game that always had everyone talking.
It’s the one game you never wanted to lose.
A house divided
Before I committed to KU, I was actually heavily recruited by Missouri. Truth be told, I even sat in the stands as a Missouri recruit when they took on the Jayhawks. Twice.
So, you could say I’ve had a brief glimpse of the rivalry up close from both sides.
There was always this level of intensity that’s hard to describe unless you experience it. You have to be there to truly understand, you know?
When I eventually committed to KU, I felt a bit anxious when I started my college career. Here I was at a new school with new teammates and a new coach. Fortunately, it didn’t take long until teammates became friends and everything started to click.
But that brief interest in Missouri always stuck with me.
It just made the entire rivalry that much more personal.
I had friends from high school now playing for Missouri.
My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, signed with Missouri to play soccer.
All of those details mattered. It was just so much more than a regular game of basketball to me, you know?
Winning the big one
When it was time to step out on the court against them, it was a pretty straightforward deal.
Missouri wanted to beat Kansas, and Kansas wanted to beat Missouri—nothing more, nothing less. It has always been that way. It didn’t matter if we were the No. 1-ranked team in the country, we’d always get Missouri’s best shot if they were on the schedule.
Even if they were struggling at the time, they’d suddenly turn it on and play us like a top-ranked team in the country.
That’s a fact!
We lost to them at the Hearnes Center in my freshman, sophomore, and junior years of college. Those were the seasons when we had guys like Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz—you know, multiple NBA draft picks on the same team.
Those losses were a big deal to me. As I mentioned earlier, you never wanted to lose against Missouri.
Yet, that’s all I’ve experienced every time we traveled out there until my senior year.
I wanted to have a win in that building. I didn’t want to graduate without at least beating them there once. Even to this day, just thinking about it gets me fired up.
It would have been tough to hang up my KU jersey without that win.
But I was finally able to cross it off my list of accomplishments in my senior year. The crazy thing is we didn’t have Paul, Raef, and so many of the other incredibly talented guys from those previous teams. And yet, to still go into the Hearnes Center and get a win, it was one of the greatest moments of my career.
And one I’ll never forget.
The fact that today, 22 years later, I can still vividly recall the feelings I had back then is pretty crazy.
A rivalry renewed
I just hope the new guys today understand and appreciate how big this thing is.
If you live in this area, people will ask you about the Missouri-Kansas game all of the time. They pay more attention to it, and it’s easily one of the biggest games of the year.
It’s a game that will be talked about for the next decade. Trust me! This isn’t just another game on the schedule. No, this is one of those games that can elevate your career and impact your future.
And today, as a KU alum and fan, I still get fired up whenever we face Mizzou. That level of intensity is contagious, and you better be ready for it.
We always had, and always will have, a great deal of respect for the players and coaches at Missouri. But for those 40 minutes that we were competing against one another, you better believe it was personal.
It was us against them.
And we left everything on the court.