MU Tiger recruit Spencer Laurie and his USA Today 14th ranked Kickapoo Chiefs (28-1) defeated the Troy Trojans (24-6) by a score of 67-61 on Saturday night in Sedalia in the MSHSAA class 5 quarter-finals. Kickapoo will now face Poplar Bluff at 4:45 on Friday at the Hearnes Center in the state semi-finals.
It is clear from watching Laurie in warm-ups that the young man is an excellent shooter. The Kickapoo student section would give a cheer each time Laurie hits a three during warm ups and let out a moan each time he missed. They did not have to do much moaning.
I would consider him a shooter in the mold of a Jon Sunvold or a Travis Ford. His form, release and rotation are so textbook that he makes it look pretty effortless. You can tell he has logged his time in the gym refining his skills. This is not to say he will be the next Jon Sunvold at MU, no one deserves that kind of pressure, but just an example of how pure his shot is.
Troy came out and got a quick three from their guard Brock Perkins, who is a talented player in his own right, to go up 3-0. That turned out to be their last lead of the game.
Laurie started off well hitting his first three pointer and connecting on three of his first five shoots. He then took a couple of ill advised Clemonesque type shots and seemed to fall into a funk from that point on. Kickapoo came out in a 2-2-1 full court trap, which they applied most of the night after every made basket. Troy really struggled to get the ball up court and the press caused several easy buckets for the Chiefs.
The Trojans hung in the game by going 6-12 from three point land in the first half and trailed 39-33 at the break.
In the second half, Kickapoo went up by around ten points several times and seemed close to putting the game away, but Troy always seemed to come up with an answer to stay in the game. With 1:20 to go, Troy cut the Kickapoo lead to 60-54. At that point Troy had to foul and Kickapoo appeared determined to make sure the ball was in Laurie's hands. He was fouled and missed the front end of a one and one, but he was able to rebound his own miss and was fouled again. He then hit his next two free throws to put the Chiefs up 62-54. He was fouled two more times down the stretch, but was only able to convert one of two on each trip to the charity stripe. He and everyone in the building seemed surprised that he didn't nail the free throws to put Troy away.
As time ran down, the Troy student section began the stupid, and at this point inappropriate, "over rated" chant. The stunned Kickapoo student section simply pointed at the score and began the very appropriate "scoreboard" chant. In the end, Troy just couldn't convert enough buckets versus a pretty formidable Kickapoo defense.
I certainly did not see Spencer Laurie, who finished with a team leading 20 points, or the Kickapoo Chiefs at their best, but it was enough on this night. Laurie showed good leadership and excellent ball handling skills versus a good opponent. He was often defended by Brock Perkins, who is an excellent athlete, and when Perkins would attempt to make a steal it was almost comical. He simply had no chance to take the ball away in the open court.
Laurie was also very calm and collected on the floor at all times. I loved his demeanor. Laurie appears to be more than capable of providing the Tigers with excellent ball handling and perimeter scoring off the bench next season. As he matures and improves throughout his career I think Missouri fans are going to be extremely pleased with the results.
From the stands I thought he would be around 6 feet tall or under. I was surprised to find myself looking up at him. I am a solid 6 feet tall and he was noticeably taller than myself. I would judge him at around 6'1" to 6'2" and he has a frame that looks capable of filling out enough for him to hold his own in the physical Big 12.
Spencer is a well spoken and polite guy. Here is a recap of our conversation after the game:
Q: Will you be coming up to Columbia to start working out with the team this summer or wait until the fall?
A: I'll be moving up this summer. I'll take a couple of summer school courses and start working out.
Q: During your recruitment, did Coach Snyder give you any indication of what he thought your role on the team might be next season?
A: They said they kind of see me as a guy that can come in off the bench and help out with the ball handling and provide some outside shooting.
Q: Are they looking at you mostly as a point guard?
A: No, I think they see me as more of a combo guard. Someone who can play the point, but also can slide over to the two and play some there also.
Q: Have you set any personal goals for next season yet?
A: No not really yet. I will probably move up there and get settled in and see how I fit into things and then set some personal goals. Right now I am just pretty focused on helping my team win a state title.
Q: Which coach was primarily responsible for your recruitment.
A: Well, all the coaches talked to me quite a bit, but Lane Odom was the main one. All the coaches were great. They made my choice pretty easy.
Q: Would you say the coaching staff was the main reason you chose the Tigers?
A: Really just the whole package I would say. I really liked the coaches and I was real impressed with the player development program and the strength and conditioning program. So I guess all those things went into it. That and I just have always wanted to go there since I was a little kid. I have always been a big Tiger fan.
Q: I guess your dad is still a pretty big fan also? Is he pretty excited to see you in a Tiger uniform?
A: Yeah, dad is still a pretty big fan and I think he is real excited for me.