With John A. Logan College teammates Martavian Payne and Russell Woods beginning an official visit Friday, a chunk of Missouri’s basketball future might be decided this weekend.
Payne, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard from St. Louis, and Woods, a 6-foot-8 power forward from Chicago who played for junior college in Carterville, Ill., are among the Tigers’ prime targets in the quest to add scoring punch and experience to the roster.
“They’re good players,” John A. Logan coach Kyle Smithpeters said. “They both have the ability to score. They both have the ability to defend. Anytime you get that … I do think they can help.”
Missouri is coming off a disastrous inaugural season under Kim Anderson.
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The Tigers went 9-23, setting a school record for most losses in a season, and endured a program-worst 13-game losing streak during conference play, finishing 3-15 in the SEC.
MU parted ways with associate head coach Tim Fuller and lost its leading scorer and rebounder when sophomore forward Johnathan Williams III decided to transfer.
Missouri also loses its primary ball-handler, point guard Keith Shamburger, and best post player, center Keanau Post, to graduation.
Payne and Woods — who helped the Volunteers win 47 games the last two seasons, including a 27-7 record and national tourney berth as sophomores — could be key ingredients as Anderson searches for the right recipe to turn things around.
“Missouri is definitely high on the list for both guys …,” Smithpeters said. “Coach Anderson and (assistant) coach (Brad) Loos have done an excellent job of staying on Martavian and staying on Russell, and there’s been a lot of really good schools come through.”
Smithpeters said Woods cancelled a visit with South Carolina and turned down visits to Georgia and Iowa State. He also received calls about Woods from Kansas and Arizona.
Woods is scheduled to visit Kansas State on Tuesday, but has no other visits planned.
Payne, who originally signed with Southeast Missouri out of high school before landing in junior college because of grades, doesn’t have any other visits planned.
The Tigers signed two players, Blue Springs South forward Kevin Puryear and Pacific (Mo.) shooting guard Cullen VanLeer, in November.
Missouri also landed Oak Hill Academy point guard Terrence Phillips when he signed Wednesday, but Anderson still has three scholarships to play with and hoped to land a combo guard, another shooting guard and a post player.
Payne is a scoring guard who racked up 10 20-point games last season He averaged a team-high 15.7 points with 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists for John A. Logan last season, shooting 36.9 percent from three-point range in 34 games.
As a freshman, Payne averaged 14.5 points with 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, connecting on 42.3 percent of his three-point tries in 30 games.
He was Great Rivers Athletic Conference freshman of the year and also earned all-conference and all-region honors as a freshman before becoming a second-team All-American as a sophomore.
“He has the ability to create his own shot and has the ability to hit shots from very, very deep on the floor,” Smithpeters said of Payne. “He does a great job of stretching the defense.”
Smithpeters said Payne can handle defensive duties against guards and even many small forwards.
Meanwhile, Woods has transformed from raw prospect into an accomplished and versatile scorer, according to Smithpeters.
“He has a good body and good motor to him, but he came in hardly able to make any post moves at all with his back to the basket,” Smithpeters said. “He’s proven himself to be one of the best post players in the country now with his ability to score inside, run the floor, and he can step out and shoot the ball a little bit, too.”
Woods — who played on the Mac Irvin Fire with former Duke stars Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker, who also was a teammate at Simeon in Chicago — averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds last season, including eight 20-point games and 20 games with at least seven rebounds.