COLUMBIA — It started out as a simple text message. Nothing more. Just a few clicks on the keys of a cell phone. It ended up much more than that — a rallying cry, a motto, a way of thinking.
“We were thinking of ways to rebuild after last year,” said Marissa Scott, a senior on the Missouri women's basketball team. “Coach Stein said it’s up to us (the seniors) to think of a name. So we all had been brainstorming and what not, and we got a text.”
vs. Memphis (0-2)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
The mass text came from senior Toy Richbow.
According to Amanda Hanneman, the text went something like this: “New motto for year. I think it should be C.H.A.N.G.E. What do you guys think about it?”
After receiving input from the rest of the players, the team settled on the final meaning of the motto. An acronym standing for competitiveness, happiness, attitude, new beginning, greatness and energy, the Tigers felt they had something to rally behind.
“The past three years have been the same for me,” Scott said. “So this year is where we want to go out with a bang. So we thought that C.H.A.N.G.E was the perfect fit.”
The team has the emblazoned the C.H.A.N.G.E message across T-shirts, team pictures and posters.
For the four seniors on the team — Scott, Hanneman, Richbow and Jessra Johnson — this is their last go round. Their last shot at the NCAA Tournament. After finishing no higher than 10th in the Big 12 Conference in their first three seasons in Columbia, the experienced group is ready to change things.
“We’re going to win,” Scott said. “We’re going to surprise a lot of people. We’re the underdog. We were picked 12th in the Big 12. The pressure’s not on us. The pressure’s on everybody else.”
Now, the Tigers have a long way to go to improve on their 13-17 season last year. Missouri thinks there is one thing in particular that will put them over the top.
“Last year we had one player (who was a senior),” Hanneman said. “This year we have four. So if one person’s getting down we have another senior to bring her up.”
And that makes a big difference on the court.
“I think they (the seniors) know what we expect all the time,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “So a lot of times, I don’t have to say anything. They’re already doing a lot of the instructing with some of the kids and telling them what they should be doing.”
The impact of the senior leadership on this C.H.A.N.G.E movement is clear to both Stein and the players.
“There’s no more negative attitudes,” Scott said. “Everybody has a positive attitude. We don’t quit on plays. Just little things that used to get individual people down, we don’t have that anymore.”
The example set by the seniors is rubbing off on the younger players. Whether it’s Christine Flores playing through pain because of a leg injury and playing well in practice, or BreAnna Brock making a mistake on offense and sprinting back to the other end to get back on defense, times are changing for the women’s team.
“Those two things didn’t happen last year,” Stein said. “They’re doing things and responding in a very positive way to things they maybe didn’t do last year.”
When asked if this renewed hustle and intensity in the younger players could be attributed to the seniors, Stein promptly responded: “Absolutely.”
Dressed in a black and gold Mizzou warm-up suit, Stein’s face lights up with mention of the senior class.
“I just think they’re a tremendous group of people,” Stein said. “I love them to death. They’re special in so many ways in their own unique way. We want the best for them and we’re driven to get that done.”
As always, the goal for the Tigers is to not only to get to the NCAA Tournament, but also to win a few games when they get there. In her 12th year at the helm of the Tigers, the always upbeat Stein has never had a class go through their four years at Missouri without an NCAA Tournament appearance. The class of 2010 is in danger of becoming the first to hold that unflattering distinction.
But in this season of change, things seem to be looking up for the Tigers.
They just hope this change brings an NCAA Tournament berth.
“That’s something I think all of us have wanted since we’ve been here,” Scott said. “It’s a dream of ours.”