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TIGER TIPOFF: Dinners together feed strong bonds among MU men's basketball players

Friday, January 28, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST
So far, Missouri freshman guard Ricky Kreklow hasn't let a hefty appetite at team dinners weigh him down. “Ricky will eat a salad, spaghetti and a steak, and then say he wants some more food," Tigers junior forward Ricardo Ratliffe said.

COLUMBIA — Ricardo Ratliffe orders steak, and Laurence Bowers orders spaghetti. Ricky Kreklow orders both. 

“Ricky will eat a salad, spaghetti, and a steak, and then say he wants some more food," Ratliffe said before surrendering to laughter. 

Saturday's game

No. 11 Missouri (17-3, 3-2 Big 12)
at No. 7 Texas (17-3, 5-0 Big 12)

WHEN: 8 p.m.
WHERE:
Frank Erwin Special Events Center, Austin, Texas
RADIO:
KTGR/100.5 FM, 1580 AM
TV:
ESPNU (also viewable on ESPN3.com) 

When Missouri tips off against the Longhorns, the Tigers will have another shot at grabbing their first conference road win, this time against the only Big 12 team without a conference loss.

"They're one of the hotter teams in the country. Not in the league, but in the country," Anderson said.

The Longhorns lost three games earlier this season, two of which came from teams now ranked highly in the AP Top 25 Poll (No. 2 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Connecticut).

"They're battle tested. I think they played some teams early on, took a couple bumps early on. To their credit, their kids have really responded in a positive way. They're playing well together," Anderson said.

Since the start of conference play, Texas has been unbeatable. Last week, the Longhorns defeated then No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence, Kan. It was the first time Kansas had lost at home in 69 games. The win left Texas standing alone at the top of the Big 12 standings.

On Monday, Anderson said taking on the team at the top would be a test for his players.

"We haven't won a game in conference play on the road. So, Texas gives us the next opportunity to do that. Right now, they're at the top of the race, the conference standings at this point in time. So, it's the ultimate challenge. More than anything else, I think you find out a little more about your basketball team," Anderson said. 

ON THE BLOG: Tony Mitchell officially enrolled at North Texas

 


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The answer to which player eats the most at the Missouri men’s basketball team’s Tuesday dinners at G&D Pizzaria depends on who you talk to, but the concept behind the meal is agreed upon. Families eat together.

"It's nice to go somewhere like a family, and it's just kind of a place to catch up. We see each other at practice and the locker room, but we don't really have a time to sit down and have a meal together," Kreklow said. 

Bowers takes credit for starting the tradition. Toward the beginning of the season, he ate lunch at the restaurant in the Crossroads West Shopping Center off West Broadway. A manager asked him where the team was, so Bowers sent out a text to his teammates. The players have been going ever since.

“I think doing that type of stuff off the court helps form a bond. It just keeps your team morale always up,” Bowers said.

Sometimes Mike Anderson and other Missouri coaches stop by to join the team. The dinner isn’t mandatory, and players come because they want to. Being a few dollars short is not an excuse to miss.

“Whoever needs help, we’re there to help him,” Bowers said. "That’s not anything somebody should worry about. If they don’t have money, they know that their brothers got their back. That’s how it is. That’s how it is on the court, too."

Ratliffe was also quick to mention the willingness of his teammates to pick up a tab. As a junior college transfer from Central Florida Community College, he was new to the team at the start of the season. When he arrived, he kept to himself, but the weekly meal has been a way for him to shed his shell.

"Food can definitely get people closer. Sit down and have a meal and talk about games, we even talk about games we had in high school," Ratliffe said. 

As steaks and spaghetti are downed, the players often catch glances from other customers. They're not gawking at the amount of food on the players' plates, but that the majority of the team is together in once place. 

“People see that and just smile at us. I guess some people don’t know that we’re really this close off the court. It’s cool to know because I’ve never been on a team this close before," Ratliffe said. 

Bowers, a junior, says he has seen Ratliffe and Kreklow, a freshman, become more comfortable as the season continues. Their appetites are similar as well. Kreklow doesn't deny the label of biggest eater. He proudly admits to buying double orders of cheese bread, but he might have some competition.

“That’s tough," Bowers said. 

"You know what, I would actually say it’s between Ricky and Ricardo. Ricardo doesn’t want to point the finger at himself, but he always gets the biggest steak on the menu.”

 


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