Heroes.  We all have them.  Some people’s heroes are athletes, some government and world leaders.  Others choose members of the military who defend our freedom.  Some people’s heroes may be their parents or kids.  I probably have heroes in all of those categories.  For instance, I’ve always considered my grandparents as heroes.  My ‘granny’ is just about perfect in my eyes.  Always has been.  It would be impossible for me to go into all the reasons I consider her to be a hero but suffice to say, I would not be where I am today without my grandmother.  She has been a role model on how to live and is the most giving person I’ve ever known.  I take great inspiration from her.

This week, I am taking an opportunity to tell you about another hero of mine.  An individual that makes me proud to be in collegiate athletics.  When I arrived at Rogers State University in the summer of 2006, there was a lot to be done.  RSU had just completed initial seasons in baseball and softball but for the most part I was hired to start the athletics program.  I was also the head men’s basketball coach and was charged with fielding a team from scratch in a year and a half.  Recruiting to a new program is difficult.  Players don’t know who their teammates will be.  There is no tradition to sell.  The player has to take a leap of faith and believe in the coach and institution. 

The very first men’s basketball player to sign at RSU was Maurice Rutherford.  Maurice was a quiet and unassuming kid but he played with heart and passion.  He was a “pass first” point guard from Broken Bow, OK.  It was only because I had been a principal at a school 30 miles away that I knew about “Mo.”  Our team at Valliant (OK) was very good and lost to Broken Bow twice because we couldn’t stop Mo.  When I brought Mo on campus at RSU, we had no offices.  He wasn’t able to meet anyone from our department.  I took him to the Claremore Expo Center to show him where we would be playing — and it was full of dogs, literally full of dogs.  That day happened to be the day of a dog show in town.  (I probably should have checked that out before taking a recruit there!!)  All I could do was offer him promises on a vision to be successful. 

Mo was unfazed.  He signed at RSU a few weeks later.  Maurice has battled through a lot of adversity.  His family didn’t have much money.  Often, he would work and send money back home.  He also spent a lot of time helping take care of his little sister who is 4 years old now.  He has battled back from a blown-out knee and medical redshirt to once again be the starting PG at RSU.  A point guard who has never won less than 20 games in five seasons.  In fact, the fledging basketball program has averaged a 23-8 record during Mo’s career.  That’s a 74% winning percentage. 

A little over a year ago, Maurice found out his mother had terminal cancer.  She hasn’t been feeling well the past few weeks.  Then another tough blow, a few weeks ago Mo’s dad had a massive heart attack and isn’t doing well.  This is unfortunate for many reasons.  Among them is that his parents can’t make it to Claremore, OK for the RSU men’s basketball Senior Day Thursday night.  That night Maurice will celebrate a career that started on a leap of faith over five years ago.  He will celebrate a career that has put RSU men’s basketball on the map.  A career that saw the young athletic program win its first conference championship.  He will be the first one in his immediate family to earn a four-year college degree this spring.  He has developed into a campus leader and strong contributor to society.  Senior Day at RSU this Thursday will be special for me.  I will be there on the floor with one of my favorite players, people and heroes.  I will be there standing on the floor with Maurice Rutherford.  It will be a great privilege to stand alongside a champion on the court and in life.  It makes me proud to be in college athletics and humbled to help honor one of my heroes. 

Speaking of Senior Days, we are having our basketball senior day this Saturday at Bearcat Arena.  Our teams will be playing Missouri Southern.  As Bearcats, we will also have a chance to salute our fine senior student-athletes.  On the women’s side Abby Henry, Shelly Martin and Tara Roach will play their final home game on Saturday at Bearcat Arena.  All three played big parts in last year’s final four run.  They have battled through a tough season this year and have continued to work hard.  On the men’s side Kyle Haake, Jake Petersen and Jake Reinders will also be celebrated on Saturday.  After some team struggles early in their careers, they have an opportunity to play for a MIAA title in their final regular season game. I hope to see you in Bearcat Arena on Saturday as we thank these student-athletes for what they have done for their program, University and community.

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Wren Baker

About Wren Baker

Wren Baker was named Director of Athletics at Northwest Missouri State University in December 2010. Baker provides leadership to fifteen Northwest athletic programs. Prior to coming to Northwest, Baker was the first Athletic Director in Rogers State University history and led the development of one of Oklahoma's most successful collegiate athletic programs. Before entering administration Baker served as an assistant in the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball program 2001 to 2005. Baker received his bachelor's degree in health and physical education from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 2001 before earning his masters degree in education leadership from Oklahoma State University in 2003.

7 thoughts on “Heroes

  1. Because of my relationship with Wren, I have been fortunate enough to have spent some time with “Mo”. I can honestly say he is a special person and I am glad to know him. I will do my best to make Thursdays game. Congratualations Mo!!!

  2. Wren,
    You are a Man among men. You wrote a very good article and you made a difference in that young man’s life , you gave him the opportunity to make something of himself. I have always been very proud of you and cherish the time I got to spend with you at work. I keep track of you . Good luck and best of life to you. Gail

  3. Wren this is a great story. I’m sure Maurice will be glad you will be there for him on Senior night. With Dewayne coaching at MWC high school I see how excited and sad on Senior night with the parents being introduced with them. Yes I also know Sue is probably a very great grandma. Theres nothing like being a grandma except being a great grandma. LOL Hope you are liking your new job!! Wanda

  4. Wren, I would like to say how proud we are of you. I always thought you were a fine young boy from the time you were just a little boy then to middle school and on to high school. After you went off to college we kinda lost touch with you until you came back to Valliant to do your student teaching and was with the coaches for the Lady Dawgs…Kari totally thought you were to greatest guy and had great respect for you . She was always talking about how good you were with all the girls, helping them and giving them words of encouragement.

    I will step out and say that you are one of the young men from Valliant who is MY hero. You took what life gave you and you went out and made in this world. You are an inspiration to so many other young men and women who are from small town USA. It doesn’t matter where you are from, it is the desire in your heart to make it and you had that desire and have made a difference in so many.

    Congratulations to Maurice Rutherford and to you for getting to stand with him on his special night.

  5. Wren,
    I have enjoyed your blogs. This one is a great story about a great kid. Now that we have sold our hardware store, we will be able to attend more Bearcat events. We will definately be in Bearcat Arena this Saturday. See you there.
    Dennis Bunch

  6. Thanks for all the comments. It was an indeed special to be there with Maurice and then to celebrate with our Bearcat seniors on Saturday! I am truly blessed.

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