The seniors walked out on the court, arm-in-arm with their parents.
Josh Webster, the transfer from St. Louis gets a round of applause for his impressive play in his single season as a Bear.
But the two four-year Bears Ryan Kreklow and Jarred Dixon earned more than a round of applause. They earned cheers and standing ovations from those in the crowd.
The senior day festivities were extra special for Kreklow and Dixon; the two have been playing basketball together since before high school.
“Ryan and Jarred, and a few other kids, would go to the summer camps,” Wayne Kreklow, Ryan’s dad, said.
They attended the same camps and knew each other because their older brothers, Rick and Michael, played basketball together at Mizzou. They also eventually played on the same AAU team, the KC Run GMC, previously known as Pump N Run.
Basketball ran in both of their families. Ryan’s brother played at California and Creighton, as well as Mizzou, and his dad was on the Boston Celtics team that made an NBA Championship run in 1981. Jarred’s brother played at Mizzou before heading overseas to play throughout Europe professionally and his dad, Mike Sr., played basketball in college.
Michael, a citizen of both Georgia and the United States, missed his brother’s senior day game but was supportive from more than 5,200 miles away.
“I feel like I raised him in a lot of ways, so it’s a very mixed feeling,” Michael said. “I’m just happy that he made it to this point and hope he has a lot more basketball left to play.”
Jarred said Michael is trying to convince him to travel to see his brother and maybe try to play basketball professionally there. Jarred said he looks up to his brother.
Ryan’s family, on the other hand, is all athletics, all the time. Not only did his dad and brother play basketball, his sister Ali played volleyball at Mizzou under their parents as coaches. Susan and Wayne have been coaching at MU for almost 20 years, Wayne as head coach and Susan as the director of operations.
“(Sports are) pretty much what we’ve done all our lives,” Wayne said. “Our kids were always around it; they didn’t really have much of a choice.”
For Ryan and Jarred, this meant more to them. Playing in what was most likely their final game as a Bear in JQH Arena, the seniors were set to play Drake, Missouri State’s conference rival.
Ryan said each game he has taken a moment to take in the atmosphere of JQH before the team runs out on the court for warm ups.
“I find myself before every game just looking around and just taking it all in because there’s only a couple left,” Ryan said. “You gotta make the best of it.”
The Bears lost to Drake 73-62 on March 2. The loss was a tough one for the seniors to swallow, but it seemed to affect head coach Dana Ford more than anyone else. He was somber when walking into the postgame press conference.
“I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t do a better job to help those seniors get a conference championship when they were knocking on the door with four games left, three at home,” Ford said.
The seniors, on the other hand, knew the season wasn’t over. The regular season ended, but a new season started Sunday, March 3: the postseason.
The Bears earned a No. 4 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. They will play Bradley, the No. 5 seed, a team they have already beat twice this season.
“It’s back against the wall, who’s not going to back down,” Ryan said. “I like Arch Madness because it’s just two teams in the middle of the ring, just going at it. It’s the highest stakes. It’s all on the line out there.”
Ryan and Jarred haven’t been to a conference championship game in their first three years at MSU. Ford said these seniors deserve a championship after all they have been through. They have been through a coaching change, teammates quitting and team injuries.
“The value of knowing each other shows in the last two seasons — the team was just snakebit with injuries and freak things were going on — they got off to great starts and everybody’s excited and then the bottom falls out during the second half of conference play,” Wayne said.
Jarred and Ryan both know this Arch Madness could be the greatest of their career.
“We still can win St. Louis. I believe, these guys believe we can do it,” Jarred said. “It’s not over yet.”