Unless you’re living in a cave you know the Missouri Tigers landed the top high school recruit in the nation, Michael Porter Jr. You may have even read he’s trying to bring a couple friends with him.
Maybe you heard new head coach Cuonzo Martin is opening up St. Louis in a way never dreamed of before. Or that he’s brought assistant coaches from Kansas City, Michigan and Washington to town. With the way Missouri Basketball ticket sales seem to be skyrocketing, it seems everyone is trying to get to Columbia these days.
One of the biggest struggles Mizzou has faced is convincing fans to show up for games, and that was before the last few years of bad basketball. Flying into Columbia isn’t an attractive option—particularly of late, and driving from St. Louis or Kansas City can take close to four hours round-trip.
Michael Porter Jr. can be appealing, but once the novelty has worn off, regular treks become pretty daunting compared to the convenience of watching games on TV. Missouri has had #1 overall recruits before and still struggled to fill seats. It will take more to restore the roar at Mizzou Arena.
Can Michael Porter Jr. jump-start a mammoth overhaul and bring fans to Columbia at hyper-speed?
Necessity can be the mother of invention.
Imagine fans transported 120 miles to Columbia in minutes on a high-speed superhighway.
That’s the promise Elon Musk’s Hyperloop One makes, “a new way to move people and things at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket.” This technology could make travel from Kansas City to St. Louis happen in around 20 minutes.
While some critics may suggest this sounds like the Simpson’s episode “Marge vs the Monorail”, discerning people already know Lyle Lanley was just hired to ply his trade in Illinois.
The list of semifinalists on Hyperloop One’s website, includes cities pairings of Mexico City/Guadalajara, Mumbai/Chennai in India, Shanghai/Hangzhou in China as well as KC/STL in Missouri, Los Angeles/Ensenada in California and Seattle/Portland on the West coast.
There’s precedent for this kind of leap forward right here in the Midwest. In 2011, Google announced it was bringing “Google Fiber”, an ultra high-speed broadband internet with download speeds of 1,000 Mbps, to Kansas City, Missouri.
Come this fall Tiger fans may approach similar speeds as they storm Norm Stewart Court. That’s what seeing potential top NBA draft pick Michael Porter Jr., live and in-person, brings to Missouri.
Michael Porter Jr. looked awesome scoring 19 points as Team USA beat Team World 98-87 at the Nike Hoops Summit just last week.
Was there a reason he didn’t score more? The game was being played in Portland, Oregon —coincidentally the sister city to Seattle, Washington where Porter Jr. played his senior season of high school and was committed to play basketball in college.
Who’s to say that Michael Porter Jr. hasn’t been spending all this time on the West Coast gathering intelligence, building relationships both personal and professional?
The hardest part for Missouri will be getting everyone on board. Michael Porter Jr. is going to need help to pull that off. We’ve already seen the incredible turnout from young Mizzou fans this past weekend, and we know the effect it’s having on coaches and players.
It will continue to take young people showing up, to drive home the change Michael Porter Jr. talked about with Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated. Suddenly, that dream seems closer than ever.
Millions of people, Baby Boomers to Millennials, grew up watching shows set hundreds of years in the future. Science fiction from Star Trek to Futurama, where instantaneous transportation exists. The past month’s events must have many Mizzou fans feeling like they fell asleep in a time machine and woke up in a fantastic future.
Yet, this is reality and Michael Porter Jr. really is committed to play for Missouri and Cuonzo Martin really might bring in top recruits that make Tigers basketball a must-see experience. And for many, that hyperloop train system could make attending every home game a reality.
We already know how significant a collegiate sports teams’ success can be for a University’s enrollment. We also know Missouri has seen a decline in the past few years—arguably for a variety of reasons.
New athletic director Jim Sterk has taken the first step toward getting Mizzou back on track. Making Cuonzo Martin one of the top 10 highest paid college basketball coaches in addition to Sterk’s extensive fundraising efforts to renovate Faurot Field’s south endzone will go a long way toward revitalizing both programs. All this is possible only because Missourians see the leadership getting serious the future.
The next step will be convincing Mizzou fans they aren’t buying into hype, that they aren’t committing to a one hit wonder.
That kind of support from the Show-Me faithful will be necessary to get, and keep, this train running.