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J. KARL MILLER: There are two varsity basketball teams at Mizzou

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 | 11:52 a.m. CST

It is that time again. I am going into my annual pitch for one of my favorite college sports — women's basketball — hoping that this time many more of you will open your eyes to some very special athletes.

To the hidebound chauvinists out there, as well as to those who have not kept abreast of the times — yes, women do play competitive basketball. And no, it is no longer the archaic and dull exhibition of six players on each team with three forwards and three guards, each trio playing a half-court game.

Last seen in Iowa and Oklahoma high schools in 1993 and 1995, respectively, the sole vestige of women's six-on-six basketball is found in Iowa's Granny League, played under 1920 rules by women 50 and older. Women's basketball in high school and college is now played under the same rules as those governing the men's game.

As one who has played, coached, refereed and watched basketball since the 1940s, I will be brutally honest and admit that until the 1990s, I would gladly have submitted to a root canal rather than watch or referee women's basketball games. That all changed in 1992 upon my return to Columbia and attendance at my first Missouri women's game.

An erstwhile hidebound reactionary, I became hooked on the sport as now played by women. It is basketball in its purest sense — the game we learned from our high school coaches and from the how-to-play books by famous college coaches such as City College of New York's Nat Holman, Long Island University's Clair Bee and Oklahoma A & M's Henry "Hank" Iba, a Missouri boy who played his college basketball at Westminster.

I now readily and unashamedly admit to a preference for the women's game and find myself in excellent company. Legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden openly stated after retirement that he favored women's basketball over the men's game. They play the game as it was meant to be played — with teamwork in passing and defense as the rule rather than the more spectacular but less effective one-on-one often played by their male counterparts.

Enough of the historical perspective already. This university has two fine basketball teams, each deserving of our support. The men's team was ranked at No. 9 in the nation — a feat that speaks for itself.

However, we are also blessed with a very good, competitive and exciting women's basketball team, which currently competes in the Big 12, the U.S.'s premier women's basketball conference. A team that, sadly, is all but ignored. With the exception of about 1,200 loyal fans and 200 or 300 casual attendees, the Missouri women hoopsters are unfairly afforded the "Rodney Dangerfield" treatment at the gate.

Second-year coach Robin Pingeton, previously highly successful as a head coach at St. Ambrose University and at Illinois State with Missouri Valley Conference Championships in her past three years, puts a highly motivated and well-disciplined team on the court for every game. These women hustle, scrap, dive for loose balls and never give up, regardless of the score.

Forward Christine Flores is currently second only to Baylor's Brittney Griner in Big 12 scoring and blocked shots with 20.5 points per game and 3.85 shots blocked. Forward BreAnna Brock is Missouri's second leading scorer and also a spectacular shot blocker — fourth in the Big 12 with 2.62 blocked per game. Brock and Flores rank No. 5 and No. 7 in Big 12 rebounding with 8.5 and 7.5 per game, respectively.

Other players to watch include heady freshman point guard Kyley Simmons; shooting guard Liene Priede, a junior from Riga, Latvia; Sydney Crafton, a tough rebounding guard from Jefferson City; and senior swing player Bailey Gee, a hard-nosed rebounder/defender who boasts a 4.0 GPA in the College of Engineering.

I encourage you — no, I triple dog dare you — to come out for just one game and not morph into die-hard fans of these young ladies who represent our university as the truest of scholar athletes. Not only do they reflect the best in pure hustle and sportsmanship, almost every one of them will remain to graduate — many with honors.

Season tickets are available and extremely affordable — particularly for seniors and youngsters. Let's make a special effort to provide these exceptional young women with the support they deserve. Coach Pingeton is a motivated and motivating coach — sell-out crowds will add to that momentum and motivation.

You are the motivators — get out and buy a seat to buy into the future of Missouri women's basketball.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.


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Comments

Michael Williams January 11, 2012 | 2:51 p.m.

J. Karl:

I understand completely. I'm a track/field guy myself...going on 48 years of participation (long ago), official, and dad of a successful daughter hurdler.

There was a time for me when the girls/women ran, that was when I went to find food or restroom or visit. When the guys ran, I watched.

No longer. Exactly the opposite. There is something....purer?....about the women in their competitiveness. I have no name for it.

But whatever it is, it's there....and I enjoy it.

PS: But, no...I DON'T watch lingerie football. Crass-R-Us.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin January 12, 2012 | 1:56 p.m.

I haven't seen the Colonel's pic in a while, and it concerns me that he seems to be frowning. To that end, I've been wondering what might make a great big you-know-what style grin appear on his face? Which of the following headlines might do the trick if, in fact, it were really true?

Obama joins Marines: Shaves head, leaves White House parties for Camp Lejeune drills
"I need to understand the troops I lead," President declares

Miller wins Pulitzer: Retired Colonel "rocks" media elites
From Marine Corps to Press Corps, a little "Semper Fi" for the writing life

Tiger Women Beat Tiger Men: First time match up shakes up College Sports "Haith stunned by Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs style blow" No amount of coach-speak can even begin to express how I feel, men's coach declares.

Troops invade Nanny State: White House landing topples Big Government "Tired of this giant wet nurse we call Washington," Marine Corps Commandant declares

Miller Fans Stay on Topic: Hundreds of comments revolve around important column on race, religion, and the Federal deficit

J. Karl for President? Movement takes off after Missourian columnist pens "quintessential" critique of American life
Talk of book, possible Nobel in future.

Missus Colonel to Colonel: "Still that handsome Marine I married"

Hmm...which one of those headlines? Ahh -- I give up. Too hard to choose.

(Report Comment)
John Schmidt January 12, 2012 | 2:15 p.m.

Send him to Iraq?

Say Mike, when you get a chance could you view the message I left for you at the Columbia Heartbeat? Thanks.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 12, 2012 | 2:26 p.m.

@Mike

That is a smile for a squared away Marine !

As to one of your headlines. I saw a bumper sticker today. It said, "Support our troops. We are going to need them to overthrow our run away government!".

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin January 12, 2012 | 2:40 p.m.

"Support our troops. We are going to need them to overthrow our run away government!"

That may be why Obama is leaving Camp David for Camp Lejeune. Be on the right side of things when the Marines land at the White House.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 12, 2012 | 4:26 p.m.

;-)

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop January 12, 2012 | 7:33 p.m.

Mike, if you knew the colonel, you'd realize that was his happy face. If you want, I'll find some formerly young lieutenants to verify this.

Oh, and Obama would be sent to Parris Island, not Camp LeJeune. Fortunately, he would not have to face drill instructors like R. Lee Ermy. The boot camp aspect of the movie Full Metal Jacket was about 90% accurate in its depiction of Marine Corps boot camp prior to the mid 1970s.

"Sir, recruit Obama (private Obama in the old days) requests permission to speak sir!"

"Speak recruit (speak freak in the old days)."

"Sir, the recruiter told the recruit that during boot camp the recruit would be able to play basketball with the Mizzou girl's basketball team."

"Recruit Obama, are you testing my patience (trying to get me to rip off your brain housing group in the old day)?"

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin January 12, 2012 | 10:17 p.m.

We do know the Colonel, Don -- my wife better than I. Have had a photo of him in full dress uniform with his missus on a dining room hutch, next to another photo of my wife's brother in his Marine dress uniform (he's a Lt. Col.) for about a decade now. When we sit down to dine, we have two Marine Colonels in the room watching over us at all times. He's smiling just a tad more in that photo.

ObaMarine has a catchy ring, btw. Except when he said Parris, his missus would think Paris and start packing Air Force One.

(Report Comment)

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