Mar 1, 2012, 6:05 PM EDT
One of the few Missouri people not fully enjoying the Tigers’ fabulous season happens to sit on the bench. But not by choice.
Forward Laurence Bowers tore the ACL in his left knee during an October pick-up game. That resulted in season-ending surgery for a guy who would’ve been a starter after averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and led the Big 12 in blocked shots.
Missouri (26-4, 13-4 in Big 12) adjusted nicely, going to a guard-heavy lineup and getting consistent play from forward Ricardo Ratliffe inside. (Would the season be the same with Bowers in there? Tough to say.)
But it’s been tough on Bowers, who’s tried to maintain a positive outlook with teammates, even if he’s dying to be on the court.
“He’s been outstanding,” [coach Frank] Haith said. “He’s a really good leader. He’s always talking to the guys. We take him on the road so he’s at every team meeting, he’s engaged (with) what’s going on in terms of our preparation. And that helps … It feeds him, because he’s not playing in the game.”
Bowers acknowledged that Missouri’s success this season has at times made sitting out more difficult.
“It’s real bittersweet,” he said. “Of course, I want my guys to do extremely well. These are guys I’ve been with for three or four years. The bitterness is I’m not a part of it. “
So here’s a question: If Missouri makes the Final Four for the first time in school – or even wins it all – does Bowers still have some bitterness? Or does the sheer joy associated with that kind of accomplishment ease some of that? A little bitterness at a missed opportunity will always remain. But winning makes everything better. Even if you’re forced to watch.
Also good news? Bowers should be ready for next season. Then he can really feel better.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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