KANSAS CITY — Some of the players arrived by plane, some by car. Some players found the ride more comfortable then others.
“It’s like being in baggage claim. There’s no comfort. The seat doesn’t lay back,” Perry Jones III said.
The Missouri men's basketball team was ranked No. 15 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll released Thursday.
The Tigers finished last season unranked after losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament to West Virginia. But the Tigers are getting national recognition for their new group of recruits, including the top ranked junior college transfer, Ricardo Ratliffe.
Duke retains the top spot after winning the national championship in early April. Other Big 12 schools in the top 25 are Kansas State (No. 3), Kansas (No. 7), Baylor (No. 14) and Texas (No. 25).
Missouri is one of only three schools to be in the top 16 of both the basketball and football coaches' polls, along with Michigan State and Ohio State.
Tigers fans will get a preview of the upcoming season when the team holds an open practice before Saturday night's homecoming football game against Oklahoma. The practice is set for 2:30 p.m. at Mizzou Arena. Admission is free.
The 18th-ranked Tigers football team kicks off at 7 p.m. against third-ranked Oklahoma in a nationally televised game.
Missouri opens the basketball regular season Nov. 18 in Columbia against Western Illinois.
The freshman forward from Baylor managed to fold his 6-foot-11 frame into a seven-passenger jet to make the trip to Kansas City for the Big 12 men’s basketball media day. While the majority of the five-hour event revolves around coaches, players say their presence is justified.
Players officially met with the media for 45 minutes on Thursday. Before swapping places with their coaches at interview tables, they participated in individual interviews as well as interviews with television and radio stations. When they weren't answering questions, players found different ways to spend their time.
Nick Thompson, a junior forward for Oklahoma, played Connect 4 on a teammate's iPad. Thursday was Thompson’s first Big 12 media day. He transferred to Oklahoma from the College of Eastern Utah.
Texas sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton and Texas A&M junior guard Dash Harris used the time to catch up. Hamilton, the top returning scorer for Texas, and Harris are both from Los Angeles. They usually stay in touch through text messages, but rarely get to talk in person.
“We never really hang out much,” Harris said. “You may know a player or two off the opposing team, but we never really hang out or talk. I think this is the right place for that.”
Missouri senior forward Justin Safford declined the chance to mingle with players from other teams.
“As far as players go, we will see them soon enough,” Safford said.
Nebraska coach Doc Sadler brought two of his players with him to Kansas City, but he doesn’t think their time is well-spent.
“I think its ridiculous to have players here,” Sadler said. “We sit around and talk about student athletes, and missing class and all that stuff. Then they’re sitting here missing class today on something like this. Some of them may answer 10 minutes worth of questions.”
The student-athletes, however, take a different stance.
“I definitely think the players should come,” Colorado’s Cory Higgins said.
“You wouldn’t have the league without players. That’s what it's all about. I think it’s good that we get to voice our opinions.”
Missouri junior guard Marcus Denmon said the players’ presence was good for school exposure.
One response from players was consistent. None objected to receiving a day of excused absence from class.