Rosburg ready for Braggin’ Rights game

Ryan Rosburg of Missouri shoots as Mario Matasovic of Western Michigan defends during Sunday night’s game at Mizzou Arena.

Ryan Rosburg of Missouri shoots as Mario Matasovic of Western Michigan defends during Sunday night’s game at Mizzou Arena. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The annual event has always held a place in Ryan Rosburg’s heart.

“I’ve been going to this game since I can remember,” the Missouri sophomore forward and Chesterfield native said about the yearly Braggin’ Rights game that pits the Tigers against the Illinois Fighting Illini. “I always asked for Christmas tickets to the Braggin’ Rights game. It’s definitely a special game for me.”

Rosburg’s father, Paul Rosburg, would secure tickets to the game every season. Sometimes there’d only be one extra ticket. Ryan or his older brother, Andy, would claim that available seat, while the other would be left out.

“(I remember) being real sad when I couldn’t (go) but real happy when I could,” Ryan Rosburg said. “He always got good tickets too. We had front-row seats.”

Andy, if you recall, was a walk-on for the Tigers during the 2011-12 season. The older Rosburg never got to play in the Braggin’ Rights game.

Now Ryan gets to fulfill that dream, as he’ll likely get the start when No. 23 Missouri (10-0) takes on Illinois (9-2) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2-TV) at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

“I definitely thought about it (being part of the game when he was younger), but I didn’t really think it was possible,” Rosburg said. “I think last year walking out and seeing everything it was kind of taking a glimpse back in time to remember watching guys do the same thing. Now that my role’s expanded I think it’s more enjoyable.”

Rosburg didn’t make his way off the bench in last year’s Braggin’ Rights game — one of just three games he didn’t see any playing time, a contest that Missouri won 82-73. Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross and Tony Criswell are the only Tigers on this season’s squad that played in that victory.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Rosburg said. “When your name is called in front of all those people and all the screaming fans, it’s a pretty cool feeling. I think when the ball tips off you kind of forget about it.”

Rosburg’s teammates know exactly how big of a game it is for the big man.

“We know it’s important to him, he’s trying to get all my tickets for the game,” Missouri guard Jabari Brown said. “Yeah, I’m going to give him a couple, but I’ve got a couple people coming too.”

It’s been quite a story for the 6-foot-10, 252-pound Rosburg. After seeing just 6.9 minutes of playing time a season ago, averaging a single point, Rosburg has started all 10 games for the Tigers this season. In 19.7 minutes of action per game, Rosburg is averaging 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 73 percent from the field.

“He’s been just outstanding,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. “He has embraced his role and really made great strides as a player. I think he’s only going to get better the more court time he gets. I see him just continuing to improve. He understands what we expect out of him. He enjoys doing the stuff that maybe doesn’t come across on the stat sheet, but we know as coaches and our team knows how important (it is that) what he does helps us win basketball games.”

And that role has worked out just fine for Rosburg. He’ll get to start in one of Missouri’s biggest games of the season.

Imagine that.

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