5 Things We Learned During a Day with Slick Willie Shaw of the Harlem Globetrotters

Categories: Basketball, Sports

Steve Truesdell
Slick Willie Shaw of the Harlem Globetrotters is pretty darn tall. Not quite as tall as the Gateway Arch, but tall. See more photos.

St. Louis doesn't have a professional basketball team, so it's not every day that a 6'6" dude invites us to visit the Gateway Arch with him. But we certainly weren't going to turn down Slick Willie Shaw, a forward with the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters.

Shaw was in town last week to speak to schools and check out the facilities at Scottrade Center, where the Globetrotters will play the Washington Generals on January 2. "We haven't played the Washington Generals in over five years, and the last time we lost to them was in 1971 at a buzzer-beater," Shaw says. "Those guys really think they can relive 1971 all over again?"

That kind of smack talk was what made us anxious to hang with Shaw during his downtime. A frequent St. Louis visitor, the ball-spinning expert was eager to explore downtown and take the cramped tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch. Here's what we found out about this brilliant basketball buff:

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St. Louis: Lukewarm on an NBA Franchise?

All photos by Jon Gitchoff for the Riverfront Times
Last night, the Chicago Bulls hosted the Memphis Grizzlies at the Scottrade Center in an NBA preseason game with the Bulls dominating the Grizzlies 106-87, giving the throngs of red-clad fans what they came to see: Derrick Rose (pictured above) and a Bulls win.

In a highly unscientific survey conducted by the RFT last night, we asked a few dozen fans what they would do for an NBA team in St. Louis. Many stuck with the "buy tickets" response, but the not-great attendance --13,497-- for the game, and all the out-of-town visitors we spoke to could indicate St. Louis isn't ready for an NBA franchise again. (The St. Louis Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968.)

Are we wrong, though? Cast your vote below.

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Tiger Trouble?: Mizzou Stuck in Neutral

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The Missouri Tigers have played three games since losing forward Laurence Bowers to a sprained ligament in his knee, and the results have been less than ideal. The hope was Bowers could be back on the floor in time to take on the Florida Gators in Gainesville, but that didn't happen. The question of how much longer Bowers is going to be out, and what the team is going to do to try and fill the void, is an extremely pressing one. 

It's clear a different attack is going to be necessary if the last three games are any indication. Add in injuries to a couple other key players (Keion Bell, ankle, and Earnest Ross, back), and the Tigers look to be in real trouble for possibly the first time in Frank Haith's brief tenure as head coach. 

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Loss to Ole Miss Shows How Vulnerable Mizzou is Without Laurence Bowers

As in, the Tigers have a hole in their lineup, and are going to have to figure out some way of living through it. No? Come on, cut me some slack here. 
So, not too long ago, I wrote a column in which I attempted to answer the question: What will the Missouri Tigers look like without Laurence Bowers

Turns out, the answer might be really, really bad. 

Bowers has been the Tigers' best overall player this season. Leading the team in scoring and second in rebounding, his contributions go much deeper than those numbers. He's the physical presence on the team; the one guy who just imposes his will on the opposition through sheer physicality and toughness. 

And in losing to Ole Miss over the weekend by the score of 64-49, it's obvious Mizzou doesn't have a ready-made solution for replicating that presence. 

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The Tigers Without Their Big Man

You know, it's surprisingly hard to find a picture of a sporting mascot looking upset. 
At the moment, it looks like good news for the Missouri Tigers and Laurence Bowers, the all-everything power forward who has done as much as anyone could have hoped -- and probably more -- to help get the Tigers where they are right now. 

Phil Pressey came down on Bowers' knee during the win over Alabama, and there was a moment of raw panic throughout the land. (Or at least the tiny fraction of the land that happens to be big MU basketball fans.) We saw the team play last season without Bowers after a knee injury sidelined him in preseason; visions of playing the rest of the way this year danced through the heads of Mizzou fans everywhere. 

Fortunately, it looks, for now, as if the injury isn't serious. A sprain, nothing more. Still, considering what the Tigers are going to look like if the biggest of their daunting collection of big men misses any significant time is a very interesting question indeed. 

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Game Notes: Tigers 84, Alabama 68

So there's the good news, and the bad news. 

Actually, there's the good news, the bad news, and the worse-but-we-don't-know-exactly-how-bad-yet news. 

Starting from the worst: Laurence Bowers' knee injury, which doesn't appear to be serious, but could very well complicate things for a Missouri team which was just starting to really come together this season. I'll take a little longer look at what an extended absence for Bowers could mean a little later. 

Now that that bit of unpleasantness is out of the way, let's get to the regular bad news, okay? Oh, and the good stuff, too. 

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Tigers to Open SEC Schedule Against 'Bama

The Alabama Crimson Tide, and fans of the same, have had a pretty good 24 hours. A third national championship in four years last night, achieved by stomping an over-hyped Notre Dame team into the turf, and a future that looks to hold preseason number one status for next year as well. No doubt about it: Alabama is the undisputed king of the college football world. The giant crimson 600 pound gorilla in the room, as it were. 

On the other hand, in basketball...'Bama isn't quite the powerhouse they are on the gridiron. And it will fall to the Missouri Tigers tonight, making their SEC debut, to drive home the point. It's an historic night for the Mizzou program as Frank Haith and Co welcome their first conference opponent to Columbia tonight; let's just hope it doesn't end the same way Missouri's first football meeting with the Tide did. 

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The Tigers Get Two Big Wins...Sort Of

On a day when they narrowly escaped with a tight and oftentimes frustrating win over Bucknell by the score of 66-64, the Missouri Tigers got another big bump in their own personal standings, by dint of some brilliant Big Ten play and the flat-out byzantine machinations that is the college basketball ranking system. 

I'll have a full write-up on the Tigers' victory over the Bison tomorrow morning; for now I'll just send a shout-out to that bastion of basketball brilliance up Champaign way, as the Fighting Illini did their part to boost the Mizzou cause by scoring a victory over Ohio State
Pictured: the mathematics of college basketball. 

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Rick Majerus, Saint Louis University Billikens Basketball Coach, Dead at Age 64

Categories: Basketball

Keegan Hamilton
SLU Billikens basketball coach Rick Majerus was a mentor to forward Brian Conklin, who graduated earlier this year
Saint Louis University basketball coach Rick Majerus, who led the Billikens to a 95-69 record over five seasons, died today of heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 64.

Majerus had stepped down as head coach in late August, citing health problems.

Back in 2007, when Majerus was still new in town, Riverfront Times staff writer Keegan Hamilton profiled the larger-than-life coach, who even then was making an indelible mark on the team and the town.

Tigers Fall Flat Against Louisville

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I wrote yesterday that it was a rare and exciting opportunity to see the Missouri Tigers matched up against an elite opponent this early in the season, and it would give us a great idea of just where the program is right now. I also said I thought the Tigers had a pretty decent shot at upsetting the Louisville Cardinals, based on how poorly Rick Pitino's team shot the ball in their previous game, and the fact I thought Mizzou was due for a bounceback from their own cold shooting night against Stanford on Thursday. 

Well, part of that turned out to be right. The Tigers did, in fact, shoot the ball much better against the Cardinals than they did the Cardinal, hitting 46% from the field Friday night. The problem? Louisville shot even better, and Mizzou was entirely too eager to give the Cardinals extra chances to do so. The end result was an 84-61 drubbing by Louisville that made them look every inch the number two team in the land. It wasn't at all the game I expected, unfortunately, and probably not the game Frank Haith's Tigers were hoping for, either. 

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