Cuonzo Martin

No too long ago at the University of Missouri, those awful black football players supported those awful black students who were part of that awful Black Lives Matter movement. The threat to boycott a game and the resulting administrative changes led to an awfully lot of money being withdrawn by some boosters who supported Mizzou athletics. It was awful.

At about that same time, Mizzou basketball was beginning the first of two awful seasons. It was former black coach Mike Anderson’s fault for his awful decision to jump ship for his dream job at Arkansas. Then, that awful black Frank Haith left the program in shambles and under NCAA scrutiny. It just could not be coach Kim Anderson’s fault because he wasn’t an awful coach, he just inherited an awful mess and awful players and that led to an awfully lot of losses and empty seats at Mizzou Arena. It was awful.

Now, suddenly, things aren’t as awful on the campus. Black is back “in” at Mizzou.

The state can thank Cuonzo Martin and his maneuvers to hire Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach and sign the nation’s top-rated prep player, Michael Porter Jr. All three are awfully black.

Blake Harris also was granted permission to waive his letter-of-intent to Washington after the school’s awful choice to fire Loronzo Romar. There is a chance that five-star forward Kevin Know could join them in Columbia. All three are awfully black.

A Missouri fraternity had their names on the antebellum-style columns outside its house during last weekend’s recruiting visit and Harris told Dave Matter of the Post-Dispatch, Missouri students and fans gave him a welcome like no other college.

“I haven’t seen a fan base like that in my life,” he said.

“It was crazy. It was hard to walk anywhere and not get stopped every second. I’ve been on a few college campuses, but that’s never happened. That was shocking. … I know in the past (Mizzou) had a good basketball tradition even though things went bad the last couple years. But I know they used to be top team. I guess they’re ready for a new generation.”

Harris will feel awfully discouraged if someone drops an N-word bomb on him while walking that same campus, but it’s all good for now.

It would mean an awful lot to Mizzou boosters if the basketball team quickly becomes competitive and returns to the NCAA Tournament. It could help improve the school’s awful reputation it has with many black parents throughout Missouri who steer their children away from Columbia.

The University of Missouri is not an awful place. Some of its students and boosters have just had an awfully hard time acknowledging that, as Harris said, it’s time for “a new generation.”

Small sample size, but… 

On May 3, 2016, Post-Dispatch online sports columnist Jeff Gordon began a season full of reminders that Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, a St. Louis former Cardinal, was struggling at the plate and not living up to his mega-million-dollar free-agent deal.

Gordon wrote, “It's not easy to rain on the Chicago Cubs parade this season, since they could lock up the National League Central title by the Fourth of July.

“But (I) will try put a cloud over this party. Jason Heyward just concluded an ugly 0-for-17 homestand that dropped his batting average to .211.”

In all fairness, Gordon mentioned that Heyward is known for slow starts – and his commentary came after a month of the season. A lot can happen in three weeks, but after one week Gordon could start preparing similar comments on St. Louis Cardinals free agent Dexter Fowler – former Cub.

Fowler went 0-for-4 in Monday’s 14-6 loss to the Washington Nationals, dropping his average to .148 with no home runs and no RBI. Again, it’s way too early to condemn the effervescent Fowler to a season of underachievement like Heyward’s in 2016.

As for Heyward, he has adjusted his swing and it is apparently paying off for him and the Cubs.

After seven games, Heyward is hitting .292 with four RBI. He is spraying hard-hit balls and line drives. It warrants a note that he still has not hit a home run, but he is for darn-sure off to a better start than last season.

As we all know, Heyward’s inspirational speech during the rain delay of World Series Game Seven helped propel the Cubs to victory over the Cleveland Indians. If he offers more offense in 2017, the Cubs will be uncatchable in the NL Central – which is probably the care regardless of his numbers.

 

Wizards open NBA playoffs at home 

After a spirited run in the season’s second half, the Washington Wizards and St. Louis native guard Bradley Beal will open the NBA Playoffs at home with a series against the Atlanta Hawks.

With the Wizards locked in as the No. 4 seed, John Wall and Otto Porter Jr., were given the night off on Monday as Beal led his team to a 105-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons in the final game played at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

“I just wanted to get a good flow, good rhythm before the playoffs. Great game. Especially their last game here, it’s historical,” Beal told the Washington Post.

“Coach kind of wanted to ruin (the) going-away party, so he threw me back out there to close it out.”

The Wizards were in control most of the game, but the Pistons clawed back to within two points late in the game. Coach Scott Brooks returned Beal to the floor, and to the chagrin of a Pistons fan heckling the Wizards bench, he put the game out of reach with a flurry of points – including an emphatic dunk.

When he returned to the bench he pointed at the fan and said, “all for you!”

Oh, I love it! I love that,” Beal said.

“That’s part of the game. That’s fun. Every bucket is for whoever is talking. Every bucket is for the man in the stands.”

Beal is averaging 23.1 points and 3.5 assists per game, both career highs, as the Wizards head into the playoffs.

Alvin A. Reid is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook and appears on ABC’s The Allman Report and several sports radio shows, including Frank Cusumano’s “The Press Box” on KFNS. His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

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