On Tuesday, Oct. 4, senior power forward Laurence Bowers' senior season ended before it even began.
The returning All-Big 12 defensive team selection had torn an ACL in one of his knees during a pickup game the previous day. That morning, the news was grim: He would be lost for the season. Just hours later, Bowers was reading to elementary school children at Columbia Public Library.
The benevolent act was a quintessential example of the 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior's character, and set the tone for his entire recovery process.
Three and a half months later, Bowers' recovery is well ahead of schedule. Bowers is eligible to play at MU next season, and after spending time on crutches, he recently began to shoot around and do some light leg lifting.
His mindset and work ethic throughout the recovery process have coaches and teammates marveling.
"He's really been upbeat about it," guard Marcus Denmon said of his fellow senior teammate. "I don't know if I can say I could handle it any better than he's handling it."
The injury struck MU players in other ways. It casted a gripping reminder that every player, like Bowers, is merely one play away from disaster.
"The injury was an eye-opener to all of us," Denmon said. "(Basketball) could be here one day then the next day it can be taken away from you, so you just have to cherish it."
Although unable to play, Bowers has found ways to make his presence felt around the team. He has been quite animated during games on the sidelines, as senior Kim English referred to him as the team's "biggest cheerleader."
"I worry about him tearing his other ACL during games," coach Frank Haith said of Bowers' sideline antics. "He's been a great leader. He's been a guy that's picking guys up, and it's a true testament to the kind of guy Laurence is."
Sophomore point guard Phil Pressey sees Bowers as more than just a cheerleader on the sidelines. Pressey said having Bowers there to assist during timeouts is like having another coach.
"He's been very supportive," Pressey said. "Yeah we lost him, but he took it in stride and he's tried to help us out on the court by telling us what's going on and what he thinks we can do to improve the team, and we listen to him."
As for a timetable for the rest of his recovery, Bowers hopes to fully resume basketball activities by the end of the season.
"I'm taking it day by day, working as hard as I can, hopefully all this hard work pays off," Bowers said.
In spite of Bowers' absence, the team, currently ranked No. 5 in the country with a record of 17-1, is off to the best start the program has seen in 30 years.
That success, while somewhat bittersweet, has assisted Bowers in his recovery.
"It helps you not think about the negatives," Bowers said. "The team winning — it helps me because if the team wasn't doing so well, and I was hurt, I'd feel that much worse."
For Bowers, the winning is fun. Different, but fun.
"You think selfishly sometimes when you're out," he said. "You think, man, I didn't play, I didn't do nothing, even though I know my cheering on the sideline helps, but the further this team goes, the happier I am."