COLUMBIA — Maybe they thought playing basketball would help pass the time.
As fans spent most of Wednesday waiting to find out the future of Missouri men's basketball coach Mike Anderson, so did the players on his team. Six of them waited together on the wooden basketball courts of the Missouri Recreation Complex.
“We’re just here, hooping,” Laurence Bowers said.
Marcus Denmon shot 3-pointers, and Kadeem Green blocked shots.
Matt Pressey tossed Ricardo Ratliffe a rim-rattling alley oop.
Phil Pressey poked the ball away from students who never stood a chance of dribbling past him.
But Bowers wasn’t hooping. Instead, he sat on a bench near the court, holding his cell phone inches from his face. Sometimes former Missouri player Keith Ramsey sat next to him. Sometimes Bowers sat alone, looking at his phone as his teammates played in front of him.
All of the players shied away from questions. They had been instructed not to talk to reporters.
Approaching them to find out more about the speculation that Anderson was leaving Missouri was pointless. Bowers made it clear that the players were wondering as much as anyone else.
They had no news to offer. They hadn't heard anything. Posts from blogs and Twitter were their only sources of information.
“Just Internet stuff,” Phil Pressey said.
It wasn't long before the Internet stuff got serious. Shortly after 5 p.m., ESPN reported that Anderson had sealed a deal with Arkansas. The Missouri players discarded their basketballs. Cell phones became more important.
Bowers was in the center as his teammates climbed the bench and gathered around him. From a seat not far away, the group of players looked like a huddle.
But every huddle needs a coach. And these players were in the process of finding out their coach was on his way out the door.
The pickup games were over after that. Eventually the players began to disperse.
Denmon and Bowers left last. And as Bowers’ long, lanky frame moved slowly toward the door, he issued his final statement.
“Damn,” he said. “It’s a terrible day.”