MU men's basketball team to play in Joplin for relief efforts

Friday, June 10, 2011 | 5:37 p.m. CDT; updated 5:10 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 14, 2011

COLUMBIA — The first road game of Frank Haith’s career as the Missouri men's basketball coach will be played in Joplin.

On Oct. 30, two days after the annual Black and Gold game at Mizzou Arena, the Tigers will travel to the tornado-devastated town for the One State, One Spirit Classic, an exhibition game that will be hosted at Missouri Southern State University. Proceeds from the game will benefit rebuilding efforts.

Haith approached Missouri Southern basketball coach Robert Corn about the idea shortly after the May 22 tornado.

“I don’t know of any other Division I program who’s been willing to go to a Division II school and play on their home court,” Corn said. “It’s something that’s very unique, and it just speaks volumes for the kind of man Coach Haith is and the kind of institution the University of Missouri is.”

The event will be held at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. Tickets, prices and tip-off time will be announced later this summer.

A moment of silence will be observed at 5:41 p.m., the exact time the EF-5 tornado struck on May 22, taking 151 lives and injuring hundreds more.

Corn is expecting the 3,200-seat complex to be full.

“It will not only be a lot of people who are accustomed to watching MSSU play, but for some it’ll be the first time they’ve been in Leggett & Platt,” Corn said.

Proceeds from the ticket sales will go to the tornado relief fund, though plans are still in the works following yesterday's official announcement of the contest.  

“For something like this, you obviously want to try to raise as much as possible, but right now everything’s kind of in the planning stages,” Corn said. “It’s going to be used for the victims, but there’s three or four different avenues we can take.”

The Tigers already had two exhibition games scheduled for next season, so they had to apply for a waiver from the NCAA to play the Missouri Southern Lions.

Landon Adams is a senior at Missouri Southern and the intramural supervisor and coordinator. He was excited by the prospect of the game but expected the NCAA to turn down the request.  

“The NCAA has really done the right thing here,” he said. “They have a stigma for being harsh and cut and dry with rules, so I am glad they were willing to grant the teams the permission to do this.”

Haith and members of the MU athletics department traveled to Joplin four days after the tornado struck to donate supplies and offer support. 

"It’s impossible to put into words the destruction we saw that day," Haith said. "That community has been through so much and, having seen the recovery efforts firsthand, it makes this game even more meaningful for our staff and for our team.”

Jason Adams, a senior guard and forward for Missouri Southern, shared that sentiment.

"I'm glad that we can play a game in front of many of the families and friends that were affected by this tornado and at least for a couple hours during the game take their minds off of the devastation in this town," he said.

The last time the two teams met was for an exhibition game on Nov. 11, 2008, when Missouri Southern traveled to Columbia. This will mark the Tigers’ first game in Joplin.

“It’s a huge honor for MSSU to be able to host this game,” Corn said. “We look forward to having a great game and a great day, and it’s all being done for a great cause.” 

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