Returning players stimulate ticket sales for MU basketball

More than 950 Student Ticket Combos have been sold already.

Missouri freshman guard Ricky Kreklow reaches for the ball heading out of bounds in a game against Arkansas Pine Bluff on Nov. 28 at Mizzou Arena. Recently, Mizzou was predicted to win the Big 12 title next season based on the returning talent. Maneater File Photo

After an energizing 2010-11 campaign that saw the Tigers finish with a 17-1 record at Mizzou Arena and an NCAA tournament berth, there is buzz surrounding the men's basketball squad.

The hiring of new coach Frank Haith and the return of guard Kim English and forward Laurence Bowers brought even more national attention to the team, and now athletic department officials are expecting this spotlight will help spur ticket sales.

"We're optimistic that sales will be on the uptick next season, as people are continuing to connect with coach Haith," athletic department spokesman Chad Moller said.

Moller said the strength of the returning players would stimulate sales as well.

"With Kim and Laurence coming back, that bodes very well for the anticipated success of the team next season, which should theoretically lead to strong numbers in ticket sales," he said.

Athletics department Director of Marketing Scott Nielson said the return of English and Bowers would create a positive effect on the expectations and ticket sales for the team.

"It is a benefit to have recognizable, talented players like Kim and Laurence return," he said. "They, along with many other talented and experienced players, will add to the anticipation for the upcoming basketball season."

So far, 974 Student Season Ticket Combos have been sold.

Some media outlets are picking the Tigers, based on the experience and talent of the returning players, to compete for a Big 12 title and even make a deep NCAA tournament run.

"Preseason prognostications do usually translate to a positive impact on sales," Nielson said. "Those predictions are usually based on the return of talented student-athletes, which we have in all of the sports at Mizzou."

MU is poised to return 10 of 11 letter winners from last year's 23-win squad, including all top-six scoring leaders and seven will-be seniors.

Paired with increased attention nearly always comes an equal increase in expectations from fans and observers alike. MU last saw a similar spike in national recognition after the 2007 football season, in which the Tigers ended the year ranked fourth and fifth in the Associated Press and Coaches polls, respectively.

Mizzou Spirit Executive Director Kelly Costello said the national attention surrounding MU athletics is beneficial to both the team and the fans.

"The excitement and attention for the team will only make the students more enthusiastic, therefore making every game louder and more thrilling for everyone," she said.

Nielson said there are many positives happening around all of the sport programs at MU, from academic work to its collective impact in the community - in addition to performance in competition.

"We are obviously appreciative of the folks that invest in Mizzou Athletics, especially considering the economic hardships many are currently enduring," he said.

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