The Dagger - NCAAB

Missouri's hopes of contending in the Big 12 took a huge hit on Tuesday with the revelation that maybe the program's most indispensable player will miss the entire season.

Senior power forward Laurence Bowers suffered a torn ACL in a pick-up game on Monday, Missouri confirmed Tuesday night.

"This is just difficult news for an outstanding young man and representative of our athletics department," first-year coach Frank Haith said in a news release. "I have had a chance to talk with Laurence a few times and he is doing well.

"I know he is anxious to get started on his rehabilitation and he will continue to be a big part of the 2011-12 team. It's obviously a tough loss for us as a basketball team. He's an All-Big 12 type player. He's one of our best defenders and he brings a great deal of versatility."

Haith might be understating the significance of the loss considering how vital the 6-foot-8 Bowers is to a Missouri team that lacks interior size or depth and annually struggles in the Big 12 on the defensive glass.

Bowers averaged 11.6 points and a team-best 6.1 rebounds last season and established himself as perhaps the Big 12's top defensive player, putting up 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals per game in Mike Anderson's pressing system. Even with Bowers and Justin Safford last season, Missouri still was out-rebounded by an average of 2.0 boards per game, so it will be up to seniors Ricardo Ratcliffe and Steve Moore and 6-foot-8 freshman Kadeem Green to make sure that problem doesn't get worse.

The timing of Bowers' injury casts a pall over the Missouri program entering a season that appeared promising despite an offseason coaching change and the allegations made against new coach Frank Haith by a Miami booster this summer. The Tigers returned their entire starting five from an NCAA tournament team a year ago including all-Big 12 guard Marcus Denmon and promising sophomore point guard Phil Pressey.

Missouri had been projected to battle Texas A&M for third place in the Big 12 behind favorites Baylor and Kansas prior to Bowers' injury. Now it appears likely the Tigers could slip further down the standings in a Big 12 that goes at least eight quality teams deep.

It's a tough break for Missouri, but an even worse one for Bowers. Still, he remained optimistic in a message to Tigers fans on Tuesday night.

"Keep your heads up because I am," Bowers said. "This is just a minor setback. I'll be back for the 2012-13 season. I'm already looking forward to that and I'm looking forward to (the team) having a great season this year."

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