COLUMBIA — A familiar face is in the very top row of the student section at Hearnes Center.
J. T. Tiller, a senior guard on the Missouri men's basketball team, usually sits alone but is sometimes swarmed by fans.
Tiller has missed just two of the Missouri women’s volleyball team’s nine home games so far this season, becoming one of the Tigers' most loyal fans.
“Last year I think I really started to take an interest in it and started going to games,” Tiller said. “But this year I tried to make it a point to go to as many games as I can.”
Saturday night, Tiller watched the Tigers easily take down Texas Tech 25-17, 25-12, 25-15 to remain undefeated at home.
It was senior middle blocker and close friend of Tiller, Amanda Hantouli, who first got him in the stands.
“I love his and my friendship,” Hanotuli said. “We always argue back and forth about who wears the number "4" better. It’s probably a good three-year inside joke. We compete with each other too. He’s just missed two games, so I have to beat that with basketball games this year.”
Tiller wore No. 4 once this offseason when he cheered from the front row as Missouri took on Kansas on Sept. 16. The basketball star had his shirt off and chest painted with a No. 4. He was just one in the line of painted fans making up the sentence “NO CURE 4 JAYHAWK.”
“I’ve always wanted to paint up for some kind of game, and football is getting kind of a bit cold,” Tiller said. “One of the leaders for the cheer squad is in my class, so I was like ‘I just want to paint up for one game.’”
Hantouli said she appreciates seeing her friend in the stands supporting her.
“J.T. and I have been friends for a really long time,” Hantouli said. “He is a really cool guy. He’s a lot different than what most of the male athletes that are here. He’s kind of a big deal for what he does, and he’s an extremely modest guy so I really think that with him just being as humble as he is, I just love his support.”
Volleyball isn’t the only team Tiller supports. Last week, he watched the women’s golf team compete in its home tournament.
“I want to at least be able to see every sport before I get out of here,” Tiller said. “It’s my last year. Plus, my friend Marissa Cook is on that team. I wanted to go out there because it was her only home golf match.”
With just cross country, soccer and softball left to check off his list, Tiller’s confidant he’ll be able to see every team play before he graduates.
“I think it’s great,” Tiller said. “We’re just one big family. They say ‘We are Mizzou’ and really mean it. They don’t put any pressure on you, it just comes natural.”
For Tiller, reversing into the role of a fan allows him to relax while still having fun.
“I just like being a spectator sometimes,” he said. “Being out there not having any pressure on you, being able to be the cheering fan that they are at our games.”