COLUMBIA — A few MU football fans moseyed away from their tailgates to catch a glimpse of the MU men’s basketball team at its open scrimmage on Saturday. In the process they stumbled upon a former star, Kareem Rush.
Rush, who left MU for the NBA draft after the 2002 season, was in Columbia to celebrate his daughter Kaylen’s second birthday and decided to stop by the scrimmage to get some work in to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.
Rush spent most of last year playing for BC Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania after being released by the Seattle Supersonics before he was able to play a game in the 2006-07 NBA season. After having success in Europe, where his team won the Baltic League championship and he was named the Final Four MVP, Rush is back in the NBA. He agreed to a one-year contract with the Indiana Pacers in July.
Rush is hoping to make a bigger impact with the Pacers than he did in his other NBA stops with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Charlotte Bobcats.
“My agent has been talking to the organization and I’ve got a chance to fight for a starting position,” Rush said. “I’m definitely going to see heavy minutes. I’m excited about the opportunity and hopefully I can take advantage of it.”
The Pacers were lacking in outside shooters last season after a mid-season trade sent Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington to the Golden State Warriors. Rush has always been known for his jump shooting ability, which could make Indiana a nice fit for him.
The Pacers have a new coaching staff this season, putting everyone on equal footing heading into the new season, which is something that excites Rush as a new player to the team.
“It’s kind of a blank slate for everybody,” he said. “You’re trying to go in there and learn whatever they are trying to teach — new plays and everything. So everybody’s on pretty much the same page as far as team-wise.”
Rush played in a few of the scrimmages with the rest of the Tiger squad, and it was Marshall Brown who drew the assignment of covering him.
“I’ve played against Kareem before, but it’s always fun to play against a guy that’s in the NBA,” Brown said. “It’s always a good experience for me. It’s perfect.”
Rush is hoping for a perfect season with the Pacers, since he only signed a one-year deal.
“I don’t want to be caught up in a bad deal for many years,” he said. “So if I do well this year I’m looking for a big contract next summer, which is hopefully what I’ll get.”
Family Man: Rush’s younger brother, Brandon, is a junior guard for the Kansas Jayhawks, but he doesn’t let the fan rivalry impact his relationship with his brother. “I’m happy for him,” Kareem Rush said. “At the end of the day he’s my brother. So I’m always happy to see him do well. That whole KU/MU rivalry it doesn’t really affect us. We’re family, so I’m just happy he’s doing well.”
Rush said that he hopes his younger brother continues to improve his skills and can join him in the NBA someday soon.
Enjoying the Support: Marshall Brown really likes the idea of open scrimmages before home football games. “I like it a lot,” he said. “It gives the fans a chance to get an early look at us and start some excitement about Mizzou basketball, so I think it’s a great thing.”
Deadly From Distance: The MU women’s basketball team also held an open scrimmage on Saturday morning and sophomore guard Amanda Hanneman entertained the crowd with a barrage of three pointers. “I love shooting threes,” she said. “Our whole team can shoot. We really try to get into the gym and help each other out. So I had a lot of help from my teammates to get that shot.”