Game #9-171: South Carolina State at Missouri TigersDecember 17, 2012 8:00 pm
I am not a little guy. The last time I visited the doctor, I measured at right around six feet tall, or at least close enough that I have no moral problem rounding up to this threshold at every possible opportunity. I may have technically checked in at about 5-foot-11 and three quarters, but even that number places me above the average male in the United States. I have a neither skinny nor large frame, weighing in at around 170 or 180 pounds depending on whether I've curbed my addiction to carbohydrates on a particular evening.
I'm a 21-year-old with a normal height and weight. I'm perfectly OK with that. But it hasn't always been this way.
I grew up as the short kid. As a 5-foot-1, 110 pound eighth grader, I claim to have made history as the smallest junior high kid to ever line up at middle linebacker on a pee-wee football field. My coaches should have been incarcerated for placing me in such a precarious position, but they kept me on the field because I was willing to hit anything and everything that moved. I had not developed any strength yet and had barely hit puberty, but I was somehow expected to fight off kids who'd been weight training
since pre-school and already had full-grown beards. On the first day of padded practice that summer, I looked around and saw a bunch of grown men around me. Meanwhile, me and my girly pre-pubescent voice were using the equivalent of Fisher Price shoulder pads. I'm sure I looked real cute, the little kid trying to play with the big boys.
It sucked. I hated being The Little Guy, so I was going to have to forget about it and kick some serious ass. Of course, I took my fair share of occasional beatings. Every other play it seemed, some Grizzly Adams impersonator was knocking me on the ground and laughing at how easy it was for them to push around a kid who had the body of an Olympic gymnast. But as we did more and more tackling drills that day, I kept coming after the Grizzly Adamses. I learned during that first practice that if you play 100 percent and go full-speed on every drill, you can deliver the pain, no matter your
size. If you're going absolutely as hard as you possibly can, you'll never had a problem. By the end of practice, I had become my defensive coordinator's favorite player. He didn't know my name, but he kept calling for some kid named "Schwack."
HEY, SCWHACK! Get lined up over here!
Eventually, the coach learned my real name, even though he never quite pronounced "Spewak" the way my ancestors intended. Didn't matter. I started the entire season at middle linebacker, all 5-foot-1 of me. It was not pretty at times, nor was the following season, when my freshman buddies nicknamed me the "Five-Four (female dog)." That's edited for family purposes, but you get the point. I had grown a few inches, but I was still The Little Guy early in high school. This had become my identity: the kid who was probably too short to play football, but got to play because he didn't care that he was small. Instead of hiding from my size, I embraced it. I dove at kids' knees. I led with my helmet. I played so hard I'd sometimes come up woozy, seeing a blue flash or going numb in my shoulder from a stinger. This was not supposed to happen, nor was it very smart, but it was my only option.
Eventually, by my senior year of high school, I grew six or seven inches, put on a ton of weight and started on varsity. I tried to play like I was still The Little Guy, but I wasn't anymore. I didn't need to overcompensate for a lack of size, and thus my identity as The Little Guy ceased to exist. Forever.
Khalif Toombs wasn't as fortunate as myself. The South Carolina State roster lists him at 5-foot-9, but I call BS on that one. You know how team rosters are. They'd list me at 6-foot-7. It just isn't possible. When he matched up with Phil Pressey of Missouri, the SEC pre-season Player of the Year had at least a few inches on him. Pressey is really probably 5-foot-9 (not 5-11 like MU's roster lists him), so I bet Toombs is about 5-foot-6 or 5-foot 7. That's my estimate. Either way, he's definitely The Little Guy.
The problem is, he's not Phil Pressey. He doesn't have hops or natural talent that will land him in the NBA. Khalif Toombs has to really embrace the concept of The Little Guy.
I arrived at Mizzou Arena knowing nothing of South Carolina State or Khalif Toombs. As the game progressed, though, I began to like that #1
on South Carolina State more and more. The guy can penetrate and dish the ball with ease. His shots weren't falling, but I could tell he was a confident three-point shooter. He played solid defense, always seemed to disrupt his opponent and seemed to have total and complete command of his basketball team.
When I grabbed a game program, I learned that Toombs is a team captain and four-year starter at point guard. He leads his team in points and assists, and during the past two years, his assist to turnover ratio is exactly 2:1. He is the heart and soul of the Bulldogs, even though they aren't very good and lost 102-51 to Missouri. I forgive him. Facing one of the nation's best in Pressey, it wasn't exactly an easy match-up.
Toombs finished 3-for-16 from the field. His one chance to play against a nationally-ranked team did not go so well from a scoring standpoint, but he still dished out eight assists against four turnovers. True to that 2:1 ratio, of course. Had his team knocked down more open shots, Toombs could have easily racked up a few more assists.
In his biography on the South Carolina State website, Toombs says he'd like to play professional basketball after graduation. The market for undersized point guards from the MEAC is small. It is even smaller for guys who played for MEAC teams that won five games in 2011-12 and became the first team in 25 years to not win a single league game. Regardless, Toombs' team has already won four games this season. Maybe the Bulldogs can finish near .500 and perhaps make a little magic happen in the MEAC Tournament.
Anything to get this kid some exposure. Anything for somebody to see that #1
is a pretty good player. Maybe he can help your professional team in Lithuania or Poland or the Netherlands.
It's time somebody wins one for The Little Guy.at MISSOURI 102, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 51
SOUTH CAROLINA STATE 4-7 (0-1) -- K. Toombs 3-16 0-0 8; A. Adams 2-10 1-2 6; M. Hezekiah 5-14 4-4 14; S. Mitchell 4-8 0-0 10; P. Myers 0-4 0-0 0; D. Palmer 2-8 0-0 5; L. Radovic 3-5 0-0 6; C. Campbell 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 20-69 5-6 51.
MISSOURI 9-1 (0-0) -- N. Webster-Chan 3-3 0-0 7; L. Bowers 4-6 2-2 11; J. Brown 3-9 5-6 12; P. Pressey 2-4 2-2 6; A. Oriakhi 4-5 1-1 9; K. Bell 6-12 0-0 12; T. Criswell 4-6 0-0 8; S. Jankovic 4-7 2-3 11; E. Ross 6-10 2-2 16; R. Rosburg 3-4 0-0 6; D. Bull 0-0 0-0 0; D. Feldmann 2-2 0-0 4; C. Haith 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 41-72 14-16 102.
Three-point goals: SCST 6-23 (K. Toombs 2-8; L. Radovic 0-2; A. Adams 1-3; C. Campbell 0-1; S. Mitchell 2-2; P. Myers 0-2; D. Palmer 1-5), MIZZ 6-27 (K. Bell 0-3; L. Bowers 1-1; E. Ross 2-6; P. Pressey 0-1; J. Brown 1-7; C. Haith 0-4; N. Webster-Chan 1-1; S. Jankovic 1-4); Rebounds: SCST 31 (M. Hezekiah 12), MIZZ 44 (A. Oriakhi 11); Assists: SCST 13 (K. Toombs 8), MIZZ 19 (P. Pressey 6); Total Fouls -- SCST 11, MIZZ 7; Fouled Out: SCST-None; MIZZ-None.