Player roots for fan for a change

Sunday, October 15, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:57 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

For five years, Steve Conde has been the emotional leader of Matt Lawrence’s cheering section.

As captain of the Super Fan Club at Lafayette High School in St. Louis, Conde led waves, hollered chants, and pumped up the crowd as Lawrence, his high school team’s star player, dished out assists and canned threes for the Lancers.

“I think every year Conde was there, he was probably our best fan,” Lawrence said.

Two years and several thousand more students later, Conde, a junior at MU, again found himself rooting for his hometown friend after Lawrence accepted a scholarship to play for the Tigers.

And while Conde has enjoyed cheering for Lawrence throughout their friendship, he couldn’t have been more excited to learn about an opportunity for the roles to finally be reversed.

For the first time, this year the Missouri basketball team let students participate in team drills during the first practice.

“Conde called me and told me he was going to do all this stuff, running up and down the floor, doing our drills and stuff,” Lawrence said. “I was excited to see what he had out there, which know, he’s got a little game.”

What Conde wasn’t expecting, however, was the five-on-five scrimmage he got to participate in after the drills. Conde is never afraid to talk up his game to Lawrence, but this was finally Conde’s chance to back it up with the basketball team watching from the bench.

But during the six-minute game, on the biggest stage in his basketball career, Conde failed to prove himself, shooting an underwhelming one-for-three on his team’s way to a 9-6 loss.

“I was a little nervous because whenever we go out and play a pick-up game or something like that, I always play terrible in front of him,” Conde said. “He doesn’t think I’m very good at all.”

After the scrimmage, Conde had a number of excuses for his mediocre play. He had already worked out that day, he said. The teams were uneven, he claimed. Regardless of the excuses, Lawrence couldn’t have found Conde’s time in the spotlight more amusing.

“I think he should have shot the ball more,” Lawrence said, laughing. “ I mean, he was trying to distribute the ball a little more, get the girls involved, but Steve Conde’s got a J, he needs to take the three.”

As a spectator, Lawrence had just as much fun.

“Oh, it was great,” he said. “Steve’s always talking about how he’s killin’ at the Rec and everything, so it was good to have him come out here where I play and show me his skills.”

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