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Here is his entry in my Top 100 Tigers list:

Posted on: May 13, 2022 at 11:48:23 CT
FIJItiger MU
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Steve Stipanovich

Letterman - 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983

The 6'11 center from St. Louis was one third of arguably the most high profile triumvirate of big men recruits ever (including Ralph Sampson and Sam Bowie). Stipo had narrowed his choices to UNC, Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, Notre Dame, and MU with Digger Phelps of Notre Dame even going so far as to claim Stipo “locked up” for the Irish. After winning back to back state titles for Desmet with a two year record of 63-1, Stipo possibly did more to elevate MU to a national program than anything previous that had occurred on a court by calling Norm Stewart in Utah during the final four and announcing his intention to be a Tiger (Jon Sundvold followed shortly afterward upon hearing the news). Despite not being terrifically athletic (boasting a 28 inch vertical leap) he excelled due to outworking and out-skilling people, and had a jumper with range that extended out to 20 feet.

Stipo provided instant credibility to MU's basketball program, one that was typically overshadowed by football on campus. In his freshman year, attendance would increase at Hearnes by 2,836 a game…the largest rise in the country that season. In his first game, a win over Southwest Texas State, Stipo would score 23. MU would open at 11-2 and climb to #13 in the polls. In a rematch with ku, who had defeated MU earlier in the year, Stipo would score 29 in an 88-65 MU blowout. MU would win the conference with an 11-3 record, and earn a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament to face San Jose State. Stipo would score only 4 points in the first half, and then miss the entire second period after hyperventilating and being stricken with the flu. His teammates would step up and defeat San Jose 61-51 to set up a matchup with top 10 Notre Dame. Stipanovich would score 15 and grab 8 rebounds in what was at the time possibly the biggest victory in program history as MU defeated the Irish 87-84 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face #1 seed LSU. MU led 40-39 at the break, but Stipo would pick up his fourth foul and be regulated to the bench as MU ultimately fell 68-63 to end the season at 25-6. Stipo started all 31 games and would avg 14.4 ppg and 6.4 rebounds, His 445 points scored is the highest total for a freshman in MU history. Additionally he shot 59.8% from the field to help MU to a team 57.3%...an NCAA record that still stands. He was named the Big 8 Newcomer of the Year.

Stipo spent the following summer in California instead of attending the Olympic trials, and his indulgences led to him reporting 25 pounds overweight upon his return. MU would open the season preseason #11 and begin 8-3. Then over Christmas break Stipo would find a discarded gun from a party left in his closet, toss it on the bed, and in doing so accidently discharge the weapon resulting in a minor gun shot wound to his shoulder. He concocted a story about an armed intruder that broke into his apartment, shouted obscenities against basketball, and then opened fire on him. After clearing the air on what he initially thought was no big deal rumors abounded regarding an attempted suicide, a mafia hit, taking or dealing drugs, and involvement with prostitutes. While the incident eventually boiled down to a minor injury, taunts of “Who Shot Stipo” would follow him throughout the year. In a very up and down year that saw the Tigers not ranked in any poll after Dec 14th, MU would hold on to win their second consecutive conference crown with a 10-4 record. In a display of the strength of the Big 8, the conference champs received a 9 seed to face 8 seed Lamar… a team that they had beaten by 22 earlier in the year. Stewart caught several players, including Stipo, with beer in their rooms the night before the game and enraged decided to let the assistants coach the game. Lamar was able to slow the pace on the frustrated Tigers and defeat them 71-67 to end MU's season at 22-10. Stipo would avg 12.7 ppg and 7.4 rebounds and set the new MU blocked shots record with 44. Despite the title, the frustrating season would motivate Stipo to re-commit himself.

MU would open the season at #16 in Stipo's junior campaign, and would march through the non-con at a perfect 10-0 including a win in the rematch with Notre Dame in which MU shot 72% from the field and 92% from the line. After defeating CU in the conference opener, MU climbed to #2…their highest ranking ever. MU remained unbeaten at 16-0 when #1 UNC fell, and for the first time ever MU stood atop the national polls. MU's first true test would come two games later against #14 KSU, and a Stipo dunk in the final minute sealed a 58-57 MU win. MU's reign lasted 2 weeks until a loss to NU, but they returned to winning and easily clinched their third straight conference title with a 12-2 record…becoming the first Big 8 team in 48 years to win 3 straight. MU had a marquee out of conference matchup that followed with Georgetown where the nation watched as Stipo battled with Hoya freshman Patrick Ewing. Unfortunately foul trouble limited Stipo and MU fell 63-51. MU would rebound to capture the Big 8 postseason title and for the first time ever MU was both regular season and postseason Big 8 champs. They received a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and after the accompanying bye in round one met Marquette. Stipo would combine with Frazier for 39 points in a 73-69 MU win. That set up a matchup with relatively unknown budding superpower Houston and their Phi Slamma Jamma team of Clyde Drexler, Rob Williams, and Akeem Olajuwon (they would make 3 straight final fours). MU could not match their athleticism and after 18 turnover and 18 of 31 shooting from the line, lost by one 79-78 to end the season at 27-4. It would be a new MU record for victories in a season and basketball had officially replaced football as the sport of choice at MU. Stipo took a more passive approach to scoring and focused on defense, instead playing the supporting role to All American Rickey Frazier and he finished with totals of 11.6 ppg and 8.0 rebounds. He, along with Frazier and Sundvold, made first team All Big 8 thus resulting in three fifths of the first team being Tigers.

With Ricky Frazier graduated, Stipo could take a passive approach to scoring no more, as MU set out on a quest for something that hadn't been accomplished since 1931-34…4 straight conference titles. MU would feature 11 players from the state of Missouri and would begin the year at #15 against defending national champs UNC in St. Louis. Against Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, the Tigers featured an injury depleted lineup with Sundvold as the only true guard, yet Stipo would lead the Tigers with 22 and MU defeated UNC 64-60. Six more wins followed as MU climbed to #6 before getting crushed in a rematch with UNC 73-58. After defeating eventual champion NC State 49-42, in a victory over Dayton Stipo became the program's new all time leading scorer to move MU to 12-2. The Tigers would open the conference slate with #18 OSU, and defeated them in a rout on the strength of a career high 32 points and 11 rebounds from Stipo. MU would race out to a conference lead and set up a matchup with new conference power OU featuring Billy Tubbs and Wayman Tisdale. Stipo would score 26 (22 in the first half) including a dunk over Tisdale in the final seconds of overtime in an 84-79 MU win to put the Tigers in the drivers seat for the conference title. After completing the sweep of ku for the second straight year, MU's schedule featured a non-con game for the national spotlight against #5 Virginia. Forever linked through their recruiting class, Stipo would match up with Virginia's 7'4 and 3 time national player of the year Ralph Sampson. Stipo would score 16 of MU's first 20 points and finish the game with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Although he won the battle, Virginia won the war with a 68-53 defeat. Still, MU would return to conference and for the second straight year finish at 12-2. The 4th consecutive conference title was the first and only occurrence in Big 8 history. MU would advance to the title game of the conference tournament against OSU but lose 93-92. MU would close the season at #10 and take a #2 seed into the NCAA tournament. After a first round bye, they would find themselves matched up with Iowa and with a win would have a chance to play the semifinals in Kansas City. Stipo would be plagued with foul trouble, and MU would go the final 7 first half minutes scoreless to only score 20 points in the first period. Despite a late rally, the season would end with a 77-63 loss for a final record of 26-8. The four year total of 100 wins is the most in program history. Stipo would avg 18.4 ppg and 8.8 rebounds, while breaking his own shot blocking record and recording 16 double doubles. The 626 points is the 10th highest scoring season in MU history and he is one of only 4 players to record more than 300 rebounds in a season since 1975. He was again named First Team All Big 8 as well as being named the Conference Player of the Year, an All American, and an Academic All American. He was named the CBS National Player of the Year.

At the conclusion of his playing career the MU record book virtually read like a Stipo stat line. He was our all time leading scorer (1,836 now 4th), our all time leading rebounder (984 now 3rd), our all time blocks leader (149 now 2nd), 4th in FG% (53.8% now 7th), and 2nd in FT's made (418 now 5th). Only two Tigers have played more minutes for MU in their careers. More than stats though, Stipanovich made MU a national presence in basketball and ushered in an era where MU was the dominant conference team for a decade. Stipo became the highest Tiger to ever be drafted, selected #2 in the NBA draft by Indiana. He played 5 seasons while never avging less than 12 ppg but after 5 knee operations retired from basketball. He now resides in St. Louis where he runs Missouri's only coal mine.

Edited by FIJItiger at 11:48:42 on 05/13/22
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maybe people forget about him - OGT MU - 5/13 11:18:08
     Here is his entry in my Top 100 Tigers list: - FIJItiger MU - 5/13 11:48:23
          A great article of a great Tiger(nm) - oldtgr MU - 5/13 12:16:36




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