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Missouri vs. Appalachian State: Transfers turn former UConn teammates into opponents

Saturday, December 1, 2012 | 7:36 p.m. CST
Appalachian State forward Jamaal Trice shoots over Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi on Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena. Missouri won the game 72-56.

COLUMBIA — Ask Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi about Appalachian State guard Jamaal Trice, and his big infectious smile turns into non-stop laughter.

The two used to don the same dark blue and gray jerseys. They even had matching mohawks when they were both college freshmen.

Oriakhi and Trice both played at the University of Connecticut in 2009. The two met as college basketball opponents for the first time ever in Missouri's 72-56 victory over Appalachian State on Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.

It took two transfers on Trice's part and one for Oriakhi for Saturday's matchup to be possible.

The two were separated after freshman year. Trice left the Huskies after seeing little playing time his freshman year. He left for Midland College, a junior college in Midland, Texas, before landing at Appalachian State.

Oriakhi left after his junior year. He transferred away from UConn after the school was forbidden to participate in the NCAA 2013 postseason because of NCAA sanctions.

Though their time together at UConn was short, their bond forged there was strong.

Oriakhi said their friendship grew when they lived together in the summer before the start of their first college basketball season. The entire freshman class that year was very close-knit and always found in each other's company.

"We all had fun down there," Trice said. "We were like bros; we'd do everything together."

Oriakhi, Trice and the rest of his freshmen teammates decided one day they wanted matching haircuts. They all piled into a car to head to the South Side Barber Shop in Hartford, Conn., to get mohawks. Trice said it was former UConn guard Darius Smith's idea.

Trice stood out with his haircut, complete with all sorts of designs on the side of his head. Oriakhi said jokingly it was less of a design and more of a conglomeration of undecipherable squiggles and lines.

"We didn't know what we were doing," Trice said, stopping for a moment to reminisce and laugh to himself.  "We wanted to be different."

The group of freshmen with the hairstyle were "clowned on" by the rest of team. They were told their haircuts were ugly, according to Oriakhi.

"It didn't matter to us; we just kept it. We just kept it," Oriakhi said looking up at the lights, remembering the incident with a happy look on his face. "It got to a point where I had a mohawk throughout my whole freshman year. That was my only hairdo.

"Those were some good memories, man."

The two still talk often even though their UConn days have faded into just memories. Oriakhi said he usually asked Trice about his basketball team and how he was doing in life. Both said joking around also made up a big portion of their talks.

When the basketball schedule was released, Oriakhi called Trice right away when he saw the Mountaineers on the list of Missouri opponents.

"I told him I'm going to guard him, I'm going to lock him up," Oriakhi said. "He said (to me), 'I'll put up 30 if you guard me.' We just talk trash. He's a funny dude, man. I like him a lot."

Trice had six points and six rebounds in Saturday's game. Oriakhi had five points and five rebounds.

The two also chided each other briefly before tip-off. Trice caught Oriakhi's attention as the teams got ready for the game. They walked to each other, exchanged a firm handshake. Then, it was like they were still teammates.

Trice told Oriakhi his shoes were ugly because they were at size 19. Oriakhi started laughing. The two returned to their teams with big grins.

"He always made fun of me because I have big feet," Oriakhi said. "Like I said, he's a hilarious dude if you're around him. He's just a funny person."

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.


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