College basketball will play a role this fall in the healing of Joplin, Mo.

Missouri Southern State and Missouri will play a basketball exhibition game Oct. 30 at Joplin in conjunction with the community’s tornado relief campaign. As of Thursday, the death count from the May 22 tornado stood at 151.

The “One State, One Spirit Classic” will be played at Missouri Southern’s Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

The historic event will feature a moment of silence at 5:41 p.m., which was the exact time the tornado stuck Joplin. Proceeds from the game will be donated by Missouri Southern to support the rebuilding efforts in Joplin.

“While the state of Missouri is making every resource available to help the people, families and businesses cope with the immediate aftermath of the devastating Joplin tornado, our overall efforts must be long-term to match the many months of recovery ahead,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said.

“The Missouri Tiger men’s basketball team is the state’s premier college basketball program. Having new coach Frank Haith take his team to Joplin for this exhibition game with Missouri Southern, with the proceeds to benefit tornado recovery, ensures that our efforts on behalf of storm victims are committed and ongoing,”

Leggett & Platt, a large manufacturing firm headquartered in Carthage, Mo., will be the title sponsor. Leggett & Platt has been a visible presence in Joplin and surrounding communities for 128 years, and many of its employees suffered losses in the storm.

Leggett & Platt CEO David Haffner, who played football for two years at Missouri Southern before transferring to Missouri for his undergraduate engineering degree, said: “I have strong personal bonds with both universities. As time passes, it will be critical that we keep a priority on those who have lost so much, and this event will help refocus those efforts four months from now.”

Missouri Southern, A Division II program, is coming off a 26-5 campaign in which the Lions won the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association crown with a 19-3 mark. In addition to advancing to the Round of 32 in the 2011 NCAA Division II Championship, head coach Robert Corn was named a finalist for national coach of the year in his 22nd season directing the program. In 2011-12, Missouri Southern will return three starters, two all-conference and two all-region selections.
"MSSU, the City of Joplin and all of the areas affected by the tornado disaster are grateful and appreciative for the support from the University of Missouri,” said Missouri Southern President Bruce Speck. “We know Mizzou athletics supports the entire (state of) Missouri team and we are thankful to be part of that effort. The game between the Tigers and the Lions will surely be exciting and will offer a welcome relief from the stresses of the recovery effort. The MU athletics team has already contributed much to the recovery effort, and the entire Southwest Missouri region is thankful.”

Missouri enters the 2011-12 campaign under the direction of Haith, in his first year as coach. Tigers went 23-11 in 2011 and advanced to their third consecutive NCAA tournament. Missouri will return all five starters in 2011-12 and have been a preseason Top 25 pick by most national prognosticators.

“We have greatly admired Missouri Southern State University’s tremendous effort in coming to the aid of the citizens of Joplin,” Chancellor Brady J. Deaton said. “To further support relief efforts, we are proud to partner with MSSU in staging this charity exhibition game. Public higher education serves Missourians in many ways, and certainly our outstanding coaches, student-athletes and athletic staff members have been among the first to step forward during this very challenging time for Joplin.”
This event will mark Missouri’s first men’s basketball contest in Joplin. Missouri Southern most recently traveled to Columbia on Nov. 11, 2008, for an exhibition contest.