Missouri men's basketball forward Bowers comes untucked

Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 1:38 a.m. CST, Thursday, January 21, 2010
Missouri's Laurence Bowers has had to deal with more than just harassing defenders, he also deals with keeping his shirt tucked away.

COLUMBIA To tuck or untuck?

It’s a universal fashion dilemma debated by everyone except boy scouts (tuck), rappers (untuck) and Laurence Bowers.

Bowers is definitely untuck.

The sophomore forward on the Missouri men’s basketball team never tucks in his shirt, except during basketball games. Well, sort of.

Basketball players always enter games with their jerseys tucked in. But for Bowers, it doesn’t stay that way for long.

“When he’s in there for about two minutes, it comes untucked and never goes tucked back in until the ref says something on a dead ball,” forward Justin Safford said. “I don’t know, it’s weird.”

Bowers said he’s been getting warnings from referees for not having his jersey tucked in since high school. But he's not going to start worrying about it now.

“I’m not thinking about that jersey at the time,” Bowers said. “Somebody’s going to have to tell me to put it in. I don’t pay attention to it."

Bowers' tucking issues clearly haven't affected his game this year. He's been one of Missouri's best players, among the team leaders in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and highlight-reel dunks, a category which he leads without doubt.

And Bowers' preference for an untucked jersey isn't a first. In 1976, Marquette standout froward Bo Ellis, who was taking fashion-design courses at the time, got permission from legendary coach Al McGuire to design Marquette's next uniform. He went back to his dorm room and drew up a design using colored pencils. Ellis came up with a jersey that featured "Marquette" written across the bottom instead of the top of the shirt, intended to be worn untucked.

"Myself and (teammate) Earl Tatum, we didn't like playing with our jerseys tucked in; it just never was comfortable," Ellis told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "So once the game would start we would just automatically pull them out."

Marquette wore Ellis' jerseys in the 1977 NCAA championship game, which it won. The team donned the jerseys as late as the 1983-84 season before the NCAA banned them.

The NCAA has a rule about players tucking in their jerseys. Section 5, Article 8 of the NCAA Basketball rulebook states: Game jerseys shall be tucked in the game pants.

A note follows: The first time an official must tell a player to tuck in the game jersey, the official shall issue a warning to the head coach. The next time any player on the same team has the game jersey untucked, that player shall leave the game until the next opportunity to substitute.

Team spokesman Dave Reiter said a Missouri player has not been substituted out of a game because of a jersey coming untucked. He said most referees “quietly tell the player to tuck in his jersey during a deadball situation.”

But it happens so frequently with Bowers that some refs become annoyed.

“One ref told me if it comes out again, he was going to take me out of the game,” Bowers said.

Surely Bowers wouldn't mind playing in the late '70s, when the untucked jersey was acceptable, even trend-setting. But he's hounded by refs multiple times each game, and he doesn't know why he can't tame his tuck. 

“I don’t know man,” Bowers said, lifting both his long arms in the air and slapping his hands against the bottom of his practice jersey, untucked of course. “My shirt never stays in my jersey. I can’t tell you why. I don’t know.”

There are theories, though. Safford suggested it’s Bowers’ lean body that causes the untucking.

“I think it just kind of comes untucked because he’s so skinny and frail,” said Safford, who added that Bowers’ shirt comes loose every game without fail.

Bowers, who is 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, said he ties his shorts, which would seem to keep his jersey in place. But he doesn’t have much padding to keep it from coming untucked.

“A lot of guys got a lot of buff (fat) around there,” said Bowers, pointing to his stomach and abdomen. “I don’t.”

Keith Ramsey, a forward like Bowers, blames the dogfights that take place under the basket.

“A lot of times people have a hard time boxing us out, so they can grab anything they want to,” Ramsey said. “And mostly it’s our shirts, and referees don’t see them.”

Coach Mike Anderson has to remind Bowers about his jersey before Bowers leaves the bench with his shirt drooping below his waist.

“Usually when I’m coming out of the huddle, Coach A will say, ‘Bowers, tuck your jersey in,’” he said.

And even when it keeps coming out, Bowers isn’t going to fix it. It’s just not his style.

“I tuck no shirts in,” he said.

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