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Press Box: Northweather’s recruitment in basketball a bit tarnished by social media

by Greg Jackson | May 15, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Luke Northweather of Blair Oaks blocks a shot during a game against School of the Osage this season in Wardsville. (Greg Jackson/News Tribune)

It has been a busy two months, with plenty of it filled with uncertainty, for Blair Oaks senior Luke Northweather.

The buzz finally came to a lull Wednesday afternoon when he signed a letter of intent to play basketball for the University of Oklahoma.

We don’t see many boys basketball players in the Jefferson City area get Division I looks, especially from Power Five programs, but Northweather’s recruitment was an interesting case, because his value skyrocketed after he played his final high school basketball game March 5 in the Class 2 District 4 Tournament title game against Father Tolton.

It’s not like Northweather’s statistics ballooned in the last few weeks of the season. Sure, he scored 51 points in three quarters against Eldon, then followed that up with 43 points against Capital City. But he played well against several good teams, averaging 29.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.

I knew he had Division I talent when I watched him play several times this winter. It just took other coaches more time to take notice.

A lot of it can be pinpointed on three specific dates.

• On March 16, Northweather was named the Gatorade Missouri boys basketball player of the year.

• On March 21, he announced in his first Twitter post he had reopened his recruitment. Before then, he had verbally committed to play for Kansas City (the Roos, that is).

• On March 25, Northweather was honored as Mr. Show-Me Basketball, the first Jefferson City area player to receive that title in 28 years.

When item Nos. 2 and 3 occurred, Northweather quickly began to garner more attention than he had at any point during the basketball season.

Before long, Northweather was being contacted by several coaches and was holding workouts for interested coaching staffs in Wardsville. He was “must see” basketball during the season, and then reopening his recruitment took that to another level.

After being courted for a little more than a month, Northweather made his second Twitter post April 29, announcing he would commit to Oklahoma.

Between March 21 and April 29, I don’t think a day went by where I didn’t see a post on social media saying Missouri and new head coach Dennis Gates needed to sign Northweather. The Tigers finally offered Northweather after a campus visit -- and after Oklahoma offered him -- but it felt like it came too close to the 11th hour.

It was another swing and a miss for the Tigers in the Mr. Show-Me Basketball department. The last Mr. Show-Me Basketball to play for Missouri was Jordan Barnett, who took home the award in 2014.

I understand Mid-Missouri fans’ desire to keep Northweather close to home in Columbia. Selfishly, as an MU grad, a part of me wanted him in a Tiger uniform, too.

What I don’t understand is why people took to social media to attack Northweather’s decision to go to Oklahoma.

Northweather hasn’t had much of a social media presence. On Twitter, he has posted two tweets and “liked” two tweets, both relating to senior teammates Quinn Kusgen and Brysan Jeffries. On Instagram, he made one post following the end of the basketball season.

Hopefully he hasn’t checked the replies to his “committing to Oklahoma” tweet, because some of them were just downright mean. Clearly, they’re disgruntled Missouri fans who only use social media to complain. Talking down to an 18-year-old kid for making a college decision shows just how dumb people can be.

Personally, the Missouri fan base would be better off to disassociate from such people.

Oklahoma is getting a good one in Northweather, who has one of the best work ethics I have seen from a high school athlete. In fact, when I interviewed him on the phone after he won Mr. Show-Me Basketball, I had to arrange my phone call around his nightly workout in the basketball gym.

I hope Northweather has plenty of success down at Oklahoma, and I’ll be pulling for him. Just don’t expect me to change my mind on “Boomer Sooner” being the most annoying fight song in the country.


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