COLUMBIA — Chants rang from the Rock Bridge student section, “MAR-CUS DEN-MON!, LAUR-ENCE BOW-ERS!” until the two Missouri men's basketball players stood and waved from the bleachers of the Rock Bridge gym.
The Tigers got out of practice early on Thursday, so it was the perfect opportunity for some of the younger players to go support their future teammate.
Sophomores Marcus Denmon, Laurence Bowers, Kim English, and Miguel Paul, along with freshman Michael Dixon, were part of the sold out crowd at the boys basketball game Thursday night between Rock Bridge and Hickman. Denmon and Bowers said they just thought they were going to see future Tiger Ricky Kreklow, a senior guard for the Bruins who committed to Missouri in July, but they were also introduced to a rivalry.
“This was my first time to catch a Rock Bridge versus Hickman game,” Denmon said. “The rivalry is here. The students and fans are into it.”
Bowers said he didn’t know that the rivalry was as big as it was. The people taking tickets had to count the fans attending the game so the gym wouldn’t be over maximum capacity.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Bowers said. “It was packed. There wasn’t too much seating room in there. You got to stand up. It kind of reminds you of a high school version of us and KU.”
The player they came to see had a quiet game by his standards. Kreklow, who averages more than 20 points a game, finished with a game-high 13 points, but was held scoreless in the first quarter, in a 60-37 Rock Bridge victory.
Kreklow noticed the players file in during his warmups, but said his future teammates had nothing to do with his slow start. He gave the credit to Hickman’s swarming defense and screens.
“They didn’t really let me try to touch the ball much,” Kreklow said. “If there’s opportunities for other people to score much easier, I’m going to give it up. As it was, it just wasn’t in the cards tonight to have a 20-, 25-point game.”
Rock Bridge coach Jim Scanlon said didn’t think the college players influenced Kreklow’s slow start either. He said that Kreklow just saw them as other people watching him.
“Everybody’s looking for him (Kreklow),” Scanlon said. “I don’t think he gets nervous at all. I thought he played really well. Ricky is really focused. I think he wants to have a good year.”
Kreklow said he was impressed that the Missouri players would come support him during their off time, though.
“Its cool that they would come out and support a future teammate,” Kreklow said. “They already seem like they’re part of the family.”
Rock Bridge senior forward Charlie Henderson said he had no idea that any of the Missouri players were in the stands, but said he was glad he could get a win in front of them.
“It’s fun,” Henderson said. “I’m glad they came, and I’m glad they noticed. It’s a bunch of fun for us, and one of the funnest things we’ll get to do. It’s rare you get an atmosphere like this in a high school basketball game.”
When Henderson was told of Bowers’ comparison to Missouri’s rivalry with Kansas, Henderson simply said, “I would agree with that.”
Lyle Harris led the Kewpies with 11 points. Rock Bridge improves to 4-1 and Hickman falls to 5-4.