Ratliffe Motivated by Inside Fire
COLUMBIA - Ricardo Ratliffe earlier years were filled with turmoil, but he has turned that turmoil into motivation to excel on the court.
Ricardo Ratliffe grew up in Hampton, Virginia, but didn't let struggles keep him from his dream of playing college basketball.
Before Ricardo Ratliffe even played a game at Mizzou, he'd already had his junior college jersey retired.
The two-time JuCo All-American has great hands, and they carry a message on them.
Tattooed on his the hands are two words: family first, a motto Ricardo Ratliffe lives by because of what he's seen growing up.
"Waking up in the morning getting ready for school and seeing mom in her room crying. You ask her what's going on and she's 300 dollars short on the rent," Ratliffe remembered.
Ratliffe doesn't play basketball for fun. He's motivated by family and transforms himself on the court.
"I don't like shaking people's hands before the game. On the court we're enemies. After the game I'll tell them good game or whatever," Ratliffe explained.
The on-court persona has a name, and it's not Ricardo.
"People just call it beast so I guess that should be it," Ratliffe said.
"Beast, beast. I guess he is. I saw some signs the other day. Yes, he is a beast," teammate Kim English said.
But he's still a beast with a soft side.
"He laughs non-stop. Constantly. He has those big, pretty, pearly whites. He loves to smile," English explained.
"Teammates tell me I laugh more than anybody they've ever seen. Sometimes stuff's not funny to them, but still funny to me. So, I'll be over in the corner laughing," Ratliffe said.
Ratliffe's inside presence is no joke. He leads the team in shooting percentage this season.
"If they think I'm going to pivot, I won't pivot. I'll just jump up and hit a quick hook," Ratliffe explained.
"When he first got here I didn't think he would be able to get it off in the Big 12. Doesn't jump really high, doesn't extend his arm really high, he knows angles," English said.
And he knows struggles. As a teenager, Ricardo had to move in with friends.
"I remember seeing three eviction notices in my life and that's just since I can remember. I know there was probably some before then when I was a baby. It's been real hard, but I'm trying to stay positive and use that stuff as motivation for my future," Ratliffe said.
"When you're here that's really all that matters. He made it out," English said.
Now his example is motivating others.
"My last time I went home, I saw a few of my friends who dropped out of school, had babies and now they're trying to get back into school because they see what I'm doing because they didn't think anyone could come from where I'm from and do it. I'm like the leader and they're seeing the way and trying to follow me now," Ratliffe explained.
Ratliffe has other prominent tattoos. The NBA logo on his hand, one across his back says poverty, and another on his chest near his heart that tells his mom she is appreciated.
Ratliffe is averaging almost 11 and a half points per game and more than six rebounds per game this season.