Fluky Circumstances Come between MU, Suggs

So I had just finished speaking, at length, with Ron Suggs about his son's somewhat surprising decision to take the five-hour Westward plane trip to play for the University of Washington, and I was sitting down to begin writing this column when my phone rang again. It was Ron Suggs. Again.

"I see all of these people saying that Mike Anderson did something wrong or that Scott's decision was a bad reflection on his ability to recruit, and I just want to get across that it was not the case," he said. "The Missouri coaches are very, very personable people, and they've done a great job forming a relationship with Scott. Would I want my son to play for Mike Anderson? Of course. Who wouldn't?"

In the end, this one came down to relationships. While Anderson and staff forged a strong one with the prized 6-foot-6 guard from Washington, Mo., they couldn't top the one Washington coach Lorenzo Romar began with Scott when the latter was nine years old. Recruiting, as businesses are concerned – and don't kid yourself, it is big business – is as highly relationship-based as it gets.

See, Romar's family and the Suggses met 20 years ago through a mutual friend, and the friendship blossomed when Romar got the head coaching job at Saint Louis University.

"That's when the relationship really took off," Ron Suggs said.

SLU was the first place Scott Suggs ever saw a college basketball game. And even before he traded in his track spikes for basketball shoes, the coach was out in the driveway, playing one-on-one with him.

Missouri "did an outstanding job, they really did. But it was tough to overcome the background of Coach Romar knowing Scott that long. It went beyond basketball."

Ron Suggs hinted that he and his family were hoping Scott would stay close to home, but his mind was made up and he was sticking to it. He said that he makes tough decisions every day in his professional life, but none compare to the task of telling Anderson Scott wasn't coming to MU. Asked how the staff took the news, he became quiet, paused and said, in effect, that there's never a comfortable tenor in which a conversation like that can take place.

"I figured the closer we got to it, the more compelling it would be for him to stay home … Would you like for your kid to be around as much as possible? Sure," he said. "It kind of surprised all of us, but we had to respect the decision that he made."

I'm not going to call Suggs a big loss for Mizzou, because as corny as it sounds, Mizzou never had him. But the Tigers sure could have used him. He was the highest rated player known to be considering MU, and a rare talent in terms of versatility and smarts packaged into a long frame.

But Mizzou basketball will go on. By all indications, the staff already has. The coaches have no choice, of course; they need to fill out a roster that will be decimated by graduation after the upcoming season. There are lots of questions about who they'll take and who will choose them, but not a great deal of answers at this point. But Anderson is one of those coaches who simply wins regardless of the variables, and I'd be shocked if he suddenly lost that gift.

I don't believe, by the way, that Ron Suggs, was not saying these things to pander to locals or cover himself from backlash. Rather, I think it was gnawing at him that Anderson would take a big fall for this. The entire Anderson family had been recruiting the entire Suggs family for some time now, and the two men have gotten to know and like one another.

Still, it wasn't enough to overcome the fortuitously fluky circumstances favoring the other coach vying for his commitment. I mean, what are the odds?

I've said it before about a certina in-state quarterback, but it bears repeating: Mizzou finished second in this race, which is unfortunate because there are very few races in which second place means so little.

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