As the only Missouri basketball player who has been a part of coach Quin Snyder’s five teams, senior Josh Kroenke spent his share of time on Hearnes Center’s Norm Stewart Court.
For Kroenke, a Columbia kid who graduated from Rock Bridge High, Hearnes typified Missouri basketball long before he signed with the Tigers. He grew up watching the Tigers play at Hearnes, but being there as an athlete gave the arena a new significance.
A long road for the senior
Although Kroenke redshirted his freshman year, he watched one of the most memorable games from the sideline.
Kroenke said he will not forget when the Tigers’ beat Kansas his freshman season. On Jan. 22, 2000, the Tigers upset the seventh-ranked Jayhawks 81-59 in Columbia.
The Zou Crew’s fanatical antics and the record-breaking crowd etched a new view of Hearnes in Kroenke’s mind.
“That was the first time I’d ever experienced a big game like that,” Kroenke said.
Not only did the Tigers’ win, but Hearnes also saw 14,098 fans shatter the attendance record of 13,782 set at the Dec. 7, 1999 game against Indiana.
Another classic Tigers’ upset was another unforgettable home game for Kroenke.
On Feb. 26, Missouri upended No. 3 Oklahoma 67-52.
“I’d never beaten them before coming into last year, and we really handled them pretty well on our court,” Kroenke said.
Although Kroenke was held scoreless in that contest, he had two assists and three rebounds in 19 minutes. The game was a personal achievement for Kroenke who battled soreness in his knees throughout the season. He missed the Tigers’ games against Oklahoma State (Jan. 18) and Iowa State (Jan. 21) because of a severely bruised bone in his right knee.
A unique perspective
Kroenke watched Missouri’s basketball program and the culture of Hearnes Center develop simultaneously. Kroenke said that Snyder’s program has implemented a distinct aura at Missouri during the past five years.
The Tigers held the longest home game winning streak last season. The sixth-ranked Jayhawks snapped their 14-game streak in a 68-63 win.
He can’t hold on to Hearnes and his playing days with the Tigers forever, but Kroenke said he has learned valuable lessons inside those walls.
Bonds with teammates the most important, Kroenke says
The bonds he has formed with his teammates are more important to him than memories of Kansas showdowns or broken records. When he graduates in May, Kroenke will leave behind his jersey and Hearnes. Nothing can replace the camaraderie he has shared with fellow seniors Rickey Paulding, Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant.
“I know stuff about these guys that I know no one else knows, and they know stuff about me nobody else knows,” he said. “It’s just a great thing to be on a team like this where guys are so close.”