COLUMBIA — When Murray State's basketball team visits Mizzou Arena on Saturday night, Tiger fans may be tempted to think about what could have been.
Racer guard Isaac Miles, a Kansas City native, grew up watching Missouri basketball on Metro Sports and had hopes of one day donning a white and gold jersey. As a senior at Bishop Miege High School in Kansas City, Kan., he won the 2006 DiRenna Award as Kansas City’s best player. It's an honor he shares with past Missouri stars Jon Sundvold, Anthony Peeler and Kareem Rush, as well as freshman Marcus Denmon.
Murray State (5-2) at Missouri (7-1)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM
TV: KOMU/Channel 8
Missouri’s coach at the time, Quin Snyder, showed some interest in Miles, even with limited scholarships available because of NCAA infractions. But before the season ended in 2006, Snyder was fired, and the Tigers never got the chance to give Miles an offer.
“It was a lot of a back-off situation when he got fired,” Miles said in a phone interview Wednesday. “By the time Anderson was there, I had already signed with Creighton.”
But the saga didn’t end there. After a year in Omaha, where he was named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Freshman Team, Miles decided to transfer. Again, Missouri was near the top of his list. He visited campus, played with the team during an open gym session and talked briefly with coach Mike Anderson and his staff. In the end, Miles wasn’t offered a scholarship.
“He was a kid that wanted to be here,” Anderson said. “A lot of Missouri kids want to be here, and you want that as a coach, but he had an opportunity to be in a spot where he’s doing very well starring for Murray State.”
Miles doesn’t seem to have any regrets about his decision to become a Racer. Murray State, picked by many to finish first in the Ohio Valley Conference, is 5-2 this year. After sitting out last season, Miles is averaging 10 points per game and leads the team in minutes played.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore gives Anderson a lot of credit for the style of play Anderson has brought to Missouri. Miles has also played at least a little with all of the more experienced Missouri players. But despite his previous relationship with Missouri, Miles insists Saturday’s game will be just like any other.
“I don’t think I’ve got nothing to prove,” Miles said. “It’s not just me, it’s the whole team. The only thing I have to prove is to just make it to the (NCAA) tournament.”
Denmon is one of the Tigers who grew up in Kansas City and played occasionally with Miles. Although they never competed at the high school or AAU level, they have played in some rec leagues over the summers at Metropolitan Community College’s Penn Valley Campus in Kansas City.
“I’m pretty sure he will (have something to prove), just because I know the type of player he is,” Denmon said.
Missouri forward Leo Lyons, a Kansas City, Kan., native, is a friend of Miles who played with him in AAU and open gyms. The two players have been dishing out some friendly trash talk in the past few weeks, and Miles said Saturday’s game will earn one of them some bragging rights.
“He’s been here before,” Lyons said. “So I know he’s been wanting to play here for a while. Now, he’ll finally get a chance.”
Anderson is wary of the Racers, who had an impressive 89-61 thrashing of Western Kentucky at home earlier this season. Missouri is the only BCS conference school Murray State will travel to this season.
“They have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Anderson said. “So that works to their advantage.”
Miles said his teammates are excited about the opportunity to face the 7-1 Tigers in one of the best arenas in the Big 12. He expects to have his family in attendance as well as several friends who go to school at MU.
“He’ll get a chance to come home,” Anderson said. “That worries you as a coach, too. Our guys, we’ve got to be prepared.”