Ryan Rosburg leaves lasting legacy in waning moments of his career

Laurence Bowers: “I have the ultimate respect for a guy that can deal with coaching changes, up-and-down seasons, and the recent infractions, the way that Burg has.”
Missouri Tigers forward Ryan Rosburg (44) reaches to regain control of a rebound Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Mizzou Arena, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri beat Valparaiso 56-41.

Think about the thing you love to do most. If I told you that you could do that only three more times in your life, what would you do? What would you say?

Ryan Rosburg, Missouri’s 6-foot-10 senior center, is in that position. He only has three more college basketball games left.

Over his 124 games played at Mizzou, Rosburg has averaged close to 4 points per game, 3 rebounds and has played a specific bench role. Over the past six games, though, Rosburg has shot 61 percent from the field, has averaged 16 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Simply put, he’s been the difference in a late-season rebirth for Missouri men’s basketball team.

Hailing from Marquette High School in St. Louis, Rosburg came to Mizzou at a time of triumph. Missouri had made the NCAA tournament four straight years, and even after the transition of Mike Anderson to Frank Haith, there seemed to be stability from the angle of recruits like Rosburg.

At this point, four years later, Rosburg leaves the program after much tribulation. Rosburg’s days have been numbered since the announcement of the self-imposed NCAA sanctions Jan. 13 that included the withdrawal from the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. That’s why his late-season success has meant so much.

After an 18-point, 5-rebound performance against South Carolina on Feb. 16, Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said of Rosburg, “I wish my senior center would play with the same urgency that he plays with as their careers are coming to an end.”

“When you’re a coach, you compete against all these teams and you watch guys on other teams,” Martin said. “To do the things that (Ryan’s) doing right now, he needs to be commended. He needs to be commended for staying the course and this team in difficult times has needed leadership, so a lot of credit to him.”

In his four years, Rosburg has seen things like suspensions to teammates like Jakeenan Gant. He’s seen things like dismissals of teammates like Wes Clark. And though they may seem distant, he’s seen things like NCAA tournament appearances. In terms of ups and downs within an collegiate athletics program, Ryan Rosburg has seen it all.

And as his former high school coach, Shane Matzen, puts it, the way Rosburg has dealt with such polarized experiences should be the bridge from the present to the future.

“If I’m someone associated with the University of Missouri, whether I’m a fan, alum or whatever, I treasure guys like Ryan,” Matzen said. “He’s kind of a link to the past, but he’s also something I think we all want more of. I’m so proud of him, and I’m glad he is (scoring all of these points) because I think people will realize that he stuck it out and he just loves Mizzou.”

Rosburg did stick it out. Recruited highly by Iowa State and Virginia in high school, he didn’t have to come or stay at Mizzou. Ultimately, he chose and has stayed at the school he loved, and many, like his former teammate and Missouri forward Laurence Bowers, respect that to this day.

“I have the ultimate respect for a guy that can deal with coaching changes, up-and-down seasons and the recent infractions the way that Burg has,” Bowers said. “It could easily mess with you mentally when you go through so much during a 4-year span.”

Rosburg is a hard worker — everyone from Matzen to Bowers to coach Kim Anderson will tell you that. But what’s been different these last few games hasn’t been hard work.

What’s changed? Rosburg will tell you that each day lost means more motivation.

“I’m playing like I’ve got nothing to lose,” Rosburg said after Tennessee two weeks ago. “My days are numbered. I know that I don’t want to have any regrets looking back. I want to give it my all and play my heart out every game we have left because it’s a countdown now.”

With three games left in his career, that countdown hasn’t stopped. The kid that’s loved Mizzou since the seventh grade has been the leader and the star of his team in the closing moments of his career. Through it all, “his love hasn’t subsided a bit,” Matzen said.

You could still see it after the “Rally for Rhyan” game against Tennessee, and you could see it after Missouri beat South Carolina. Ryan Rosburg still cares about this school and this team, and that will add to his lasting legacy.

“When I was a little boy and I watched Mizzou basketball, I wanted to be like Kim Anderson, who was the Big 8 player of the year at the time,” Matzen said. “I just hope, when it’s all over, there’s little kids across this state that want to be like (Ryan) and wear the jersey just like he did.”

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