Billiards ready to face legends

Walker Van Wey / Reporter
March 1,2016; 2 p.m.

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Taren Stewart attempts a one-nine combo shot during a game of nine-ball during practice.
Photo by Sandro Perrino

What would the outcome be if a group of professional athletes and living legends took on an NCAA Division II school?

For the Lindenwood billiards team, this is a scenario that takes place twice a year.

This so-called “exhibition” is known as, “The Durbin Cup.”

Mike Durbin, owner of Durbin’s Custom Cues and longtime friend of Lindenwood billiards coach, Mark Wilson, has assembled his crew of player representatives for the fifth chapter of the Durbin Cup.

Durbin’s team consists of highly touted professionals including eight-time world champion and billiards legend, Nick Varner, who has been one of the most wellknown names in the sport since the 1970s.

Although both sides find the event enjoyable, Durbin ensures this is still a competition and not a friendly meet and greet.

“We’ll be playing just as hard as if we were playing for a million dollars.” Durbin said. “This is a huge matter of pride for everybody involved.”

On the other side, Wilson and his Lindenwood Lions eagerly await the competition.

Wilson, a legend in his own right and former winner of the highly coveted Mosconi Cup, is putting the finishing touches on his final roster before the big event.

Although a lineup of professionals and legends waiting to take down a college team may threaten many, Wilson confidently said, “Frankly we’re too good for college teams. We’re the only ones who can offer that team any sort of threat.”

One particular threat to Durbin’s Destroyers is 21-year-old junior, Landon Shuffett.

Professional player Billy "The Kid" Thorpe attempts to pocket the six ball while practicing with the Lindenwood billiards team. <br />  Photo by Sandro Perrino

Professional player Billy “The Kid” Thorpe attempts to pocket the six ball while practicing with the Lindenwood billiards team.
Photo by Sandro Perrino

Shuffett is no stranger to some of the faces on the other side, including Varner, the anchor of the Destroyers.

Shuffett, as well as his dad, have both competed against Varner in the past, and he plans to go into the cup with just as much focus as he brought to the table during his two national championship victories.

“I really want to win,” Shuffett said. “For this college team, who’s really young, to win against these guys is so awesome.”

Shuffett, along with Briana Miller, Sharik Sayed and Tanner Nickels all come with professional experience of their own as they fight for the remaining positions in the cup lineup.

With this in mind, Durbin and his Destroyers know it is more than the average college team they are up against.

“It really doesn’t make much difference,” Durbin said. “My guys don’t know how to take it easy.”

This statement can be proven true by the past.

The Lions took Durbin’s homemade trophy in the first two matchups, which did not sit well with the Destroyers.

The professionals came back and won the last two.

“My guys [want to] win for me,” Durbin said.

“If we can bring the cup home, that’s a huge source of pride and success for them.”

And although Wilson acknowledges that Durbin’s carefully selected group of professionals may have the upper hand, he promises it will be no easy walk in the park against his confident squad.