Twenty-three former Missouri basketball and football players returned to Columbia for the Carroll and Bowers Alumni Game on Saturday at Mizzou Arena. The years away changed them all, though they were recognizable in their own ways.
DeMarre Carroll still has the dreadlocks that he famously rocked as a Tiger. Brian Grawer can still drain 3s. Jason Sutherland, the ultimate scrapper, will still hurl a basketball off an opponent if he’s falling out of bounds.
Defense was scant but hardly mattered. Neither did winning. Carroll’s team defeated Laurence Bowers’ team 137-116, and Bowers was radiant after the game.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy that all these people came out to support us,” he said.
It was a turnout larger than Bowers imagined. He underestimated the number that would turn out to see some of Missouri’s adored athletes in recent memory play a (semi-competitive) pickup game, raising money for three charities — the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, Granny’s House and the Carroll Family Foundation — in the process.
The exact figure raised by the game won’t be determined until later, though $35,000 already had been banked for tickets to a postgame gala Saturday night. Tami Chievous, the head of academic services for MU athletics and the event’s organizer, said the goal was to raise $100,000.
Chievous, who wore a game jersey with “The Boss” as the back nameplate, was instrumental in bringing players back to Columbia for the game. She was an adviser for many of the athletes that played Saturday and has kept in contact with them after their collegiate careers ended.
“I think it shows the true testament of who they are as individuals that they valued their time in Columbia, they valued their time at the university and wanted to give back,” she said, adding that most committed after the first phone call.
A large swath of the lower bowl was full, making for a crowd comparable to a few games at the end of the Tigers’ nonconference schedule last year. Saturday’s atmosphere, however, was totally different.
The alumni game had a celebratory feel, with names like Bowers, Carroll, Melvin Booker and Rickey Paulding conjuring past images of hardwood success. Bowers said the timing was by design.
“I love the university too much to see it the way that it has been the last few years with the stuff on campus and the different athletic programs,” Bowers said. “Just seeing everybody in here having a good time, smiling, that means the world to me.”
The promise of the future was also cause for optimism. Michael Porter Jr. and the rest of the current Tigers watched the first half from the student section.
Porter has said that the lasting impression of watching players like Bowers, Carroll and Ricardo Ratliffe inspired him to play at Missouri. Now his predecessors are thrilled to watch him and his teammates at Mizzou Arena.
“I’m very, very excited,” said Carroll, who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets on July 13 and did not play Saturday. “I’m expecting big things out of them. The coach,” Cuonzo Martin, “is great. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Ratliffe was a star Saturday, scoring a game-high 39 points for Team Carroll. The Tigers’ all-time leader in field-goal percentage has been a force professionally in Asia since leaving Missouri in 2012, so much so that South Korea is seeking to add him to its national team as a naturalized citizen according to a report from Fox Sports Asia in June.
“That wasn’t even fair. He was trying to dunk on everybody,” Team Bowers’ Jerrell Jackson said. “The crazy thing is, I used to play basketball with Ricardo at the rec center, so I knew how unstoppable the dude was. I decided to get out of his way. I know he’s a beast.”
Bowers led his own team with 21 points. He signed with Italian club Alma Trieste on Friday, ensuring he will play a fifth professional season in Europe.
Italy is special for Bowers — his daughter, Fiyori, was born there in January.
“Now my daughter is of age, so she’ll actually be able to say, ‘I was born in Italy and I remember it a little bit.’ I love Italy and am looking forward to get back over there,” Bowers said.
Grawer was a picture of his old self, draining six treys to finish with 18 points for Team Carroll. Jarrett Sutton, a former Missouri walk-on that is now an analyst for the SEC Network, also made a home from the 3-point line, finishing with 12 points for Team Bowers.
A nearly unrecognizable Sutherland scored 13 points for Team Carroll. He is now bald and sports a thick, full beard and arm tattoos. It was a sharp contrast to the clean-cut look he had for the Tigers from 1994-97, but one more in line with the hard-charging, no-holds-barred style of play he was known for. He infamously was involved in a brawl during an exhibition game at Rock Bridge in 2007, though Saturday’s exhibition was much less confrontational.
Steve Moore, a fan favorite from 2008-12, had 11 points for Team Carroll. He even hit two 3-pointers — something he did only three times in four years with the Tigers. Rob Stewart, who featured for Missouri from 2002-03, had six points for Team Bowers.