COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman forward Laurence Bowers doesn't remember the first time he met Tigers men's basketball coach Mike Anderson.
Bowers' uncle was playing for Anderson when he was an assistant at Arkansas, and Bowers was a newborn.
"I knew coach Anderson before I knew myself," Laurence Bowers said.
Arlyn Bowers played at Arkansas from 1988 to 1991. The Razorbacks advanced to the NCAA tournament during all four seasons that Arlyn Bowers played for the team, including a trip to the Final Four in 1990.
Arlyn Bowers originally encouraged his nephew to attend his alma mater because of the fond memories he had from his time on campus.
"He was automatically going to be glorified by all the people there because of me," Arlyn Bowers said.
Arlyn Bowers also told Laurence Bowers about his relationship with Anderson, who Arlyn Bowers describes as a father figure and mentor.
"I believe that he came up from the same background as I did, not having much as a kid," Arlyn Bowers said. "I think coach Anderson could relate to me. He took me under his wing."
Through the years, Anderson and Arlyn Bowers have stayed in touch. Anderson calls Arlyn Bowers periodically and meets with him on trips to Memphis, where Arlyn and Laurence Bowers live.
When Laurence Bowers hurt his knee in high school, Arkansas stepped away. But Anderson stuck with him. In the end, Laurence Bowers chose Missouri because of the dedication that Anderson had shown to his uncle.
"For him to treat my uncle like family, I know he'll take care of me too," Laurence Bowers said. "It made the decision easy."
This season, Laurence Bowers will have to compete for minutes on the interior with DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons, Missouri's two leading scorers from last season. But Anderson said that Laurence Bowers can contribute immediately, especially with rebounding.
Last season, Missouri was outrebounded in 12 of its 17 Big 12 Conference games.
"If I can find somebody to rebound, he will get some minutes," Anderson said.
Laurence Bowers wants to follow his uncle's example of how to gain playing time in Anderson's system.
At Arkansas, Arlyn Bowers had to fight for minutes with future NBA players Lee Mayberry, Todd Day and Oliver Miller. He knew that Anderson and head coach Nolan Richardson valued defense, so that's what he focused on.
"I wasn't used to coming off the bench, so I had to find out a way to get in that starting lineup," Arlyn Bowers said. "I became so tenacious on defense that he had to recognize how hard I was playing."
The hard work paid off, and Arlyn Bowers was a starter in 1990, when Arkansas advanced to the Final Four, and in 1991, when the Razorbacks made it to the Elite Eight.
Laurence Bowers hopes to use his defense to earn minutes as well. He tries to outrebound Lyons and Carroll every day in practice and is working on his strength.
In practice, Anderson has been impressed with Laurence Bowers' nose for the ball, which Anderson said Laurence inherited from his uncle.
"He has good genes, good basketball instincts," Anderson said.
Winning is in Laurence Bowers' genes too.
Growing up, Arlyn Bowers was a father figure for Laurence Bowers, and they spent their time together in the gym, working on Laurence's skills. Arlyn Bowers instilled in his nephew that defense, rebounding and unselfishness are the keys to winning games.
Following his uncle's example, Laurence teamed with Duke recruit Elliot Williams to lead St. George's High School to the Tennessee Divsion II state championship as a junior and state semifinals as a senior.
"Laurence knows how to win," Anderson said. "He was a blue collar guy on that St. George's team who did the things you need to win."
One difference between Arlyn Bowers and his nephew is that Laurence Bowers possesses more natural talent.
Laurence Bowers is 6-foot-8, and he has a 6-foot-10 wingspan, which he used to pull down 12.4 rebounds per game in high school.
"He has the talent I didn't have," Arlyn Bowers said. "By me showing him what he needs to play at that level, the sky is the limit."
In the Black-and-Gold game last week, Bowers wowed the fans when he dunked a lob pass from teammate Keith Ramsey late in the second half.
Bowers finished the game with 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He grabbed eight rebounds, the second highest total in the game.
"He's very, very athletic," Anderson said. "You are going to see a lot of highlights from him."
Laurence Bowers has high hopes for the Tigers this season. Winning at the college level is just one more way that Bowers wants to emulate his uncle.
"We're going to shock the world," Laurence Bowers said. "If we play hard and we practice hard, success is going to come. It has to."