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Mizzou 25!

It's Mizzou 25, the tournament to decide the best, most influential, most likable Mizzou athlete of the past 25 years! It's like Who's Now or The Greatest Highlight, only, uhh, cool.

Mizzou 25 is set up in four 8-athlete regions: the Norm Stewart Region (basketball), the Larry Smith Region (football), the Joann Rutherford Region (all sports), and the Spider Region (fan favorites). Over the next month or so, we'll be setting up a poll a day to run through each regional, but first we have to finalize the participants.

Today, we finalize the Norm Stewart Region. Here are six definite participants:

  1. Derrick Chievous (1984-88)
  1. Doug Smith (1987-91)
  1. Anthony Peeler (1988-92)
  1. Melvin Booker (1990-94)
  1. Kareem Rush (1999-02)
  1. Clarence Gilbert (1998-02)
  1. ?
  1. ?

(Jon Sundvold and Steve Stipanovich are not eligible, as their last season was 1982-83, and the first season of the last 25 years was technically 1983-84.)

Below is a poll to determine the final two participants. It's a democracy! You may select one from the list below (or select 'Other' and name your choice in the Comments section). The top two will make the Norm Stewart Region.

UPDATE 3:30 - This thing is freaking close! Be sure to vote!

Click 'Full Story' for the nominees.

Nathan Buntin (1986-90) - A 6'9 forward who played alongside Chievous, Smith, and the other greats of those late-'80s teams. A decent player his first three years, he broke out his senior year, averaging 14.8 PPG and 9.5 RPG, including almost three offensive rebounds per game. On a team dominated by Peeler and Doug Smith, he was as strong as anybody.

Jevon Crudup (1990-94) - Taking over for Buntin and Doug Smith as enforcer and rebounder, Crudup was steady, averaging at least 12 PPG and 7 RPG all four years of his career and serving as the primary post presence on Mizzou's great 1994 team.

Paul O'Liney (1993-95) - Without O'Liney, 1994 would have never happened. A mid-season JUCO transfer, O'Liney, the Mizzou athlete most associated with the word "Funk" until Ben Askren came around, provided 10 PPG for the 1993-94 team, then almost single-handedly carried the offense in 1994-95, throwing in 19.7 PPG and grabbing 5.4 RPG for the team that was a Tyus Edney away from doing major damage in the NCAA Tourney.

Jason Sutherland (1993-97) - Possibly the most-hated-by-fans-of-other-teams player in Mizzou history, Sutherland was the definition of tough and scrappy. A dangerous 3-point shooter, he played key OT minutes as a freshman against Illinois in 1993, then developed into a steady starter for the next three seasons. He averaged about 12 PPG for his junior and senior seasons.

Kelly Thames (1993-98) - Oh what could have been. As a freshman, Thames was a 12&7 presence and instant starter for the '93-'94 team before tearing up his knee preparing for his sophomore year. The knee injury took away a lot of his athleticism, but Thames developed into a reliable post presence on offense, averaging 14.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG his senior season for an offensively-challenged team.

Rickey Paulding (2000-04) - Went from "ridiculous athlete" as a freshman to "go-to guy" as a junior and senior. When everybody was wondering who would shoot and score without Kareem and Clarence around, Paulding stepped up, averaging 17.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 0.8 SPG as a junior and outplaying Dwayne Wade in the 2003 NCAA tournament. Put up similar numbers in the disappointing 2003-04 season. Finisher of the greatest alley-oop in Mizzou history (against Iowa at the Hearnes Center in late-2001).

Arthur Johnson (2000-04) - The best shot-blocker in Mizzou history, AJ was also the best interior scorer of the Quin Snyder era. His scoring average went from 9 PPG as a freshman, to 12 as a sophomore, and 16 as a junior/senior. And that was with Mizzou fans screaming for him to get more touches!

Linas Kleiza (2003-05) - Whereas AJ was more finesse-oriented, Kleiza was a bull with a 3-point shot. He was the only offensive weapon for the 2004-05 team, and when he got hot (as he did against 1-seed OU in the 2005 Big 12 Tournament), he was a joy to watch. At 6'8, 240, with a small-forward's skill set, I was wondering if he could succeed as a tweener in the NBA, but on a team with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson, Kleiza is getting more and more touches for the Denver Nuggets this year, averaging 11 PPG. He scored 41 points January 17 against Utah. Would have probably been on the bracket for sure if he had stayed a third year.