Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin’s summer travel schedule already revolves around the Bradley Beal Elite under-17 AAU team, which features top Tigers recruiting targets such as E.J. Liddell, Mario McKinney, Terrence Hargrove Jr. and Francis Okoro.
It appears this could turn into a routine for Martin and his staff.
The St. Louis-based AAU program’s under-16 team is becoming a must-watch squad in itself, with the likes of 2020 targets Caleb Love, Cam’Ron Fletcher and Luke Kasubke.
All three players recently picked up an offer from Missouri after Martin and assistant coach Chris Hollender took in the team’s games at the first two Nike EYBL sessions.
And the Tigers recent success on the court and recruiting St. Louis is already paying dividends with the younger prospects.
Love, a 6-foot-3 point guard for Christian Brothers College, said he thought what Martin did with Mizzou in his first year was impressive, given the Tigers' issues at point guard and the absence of Michael Porter Jr. in the regular season.
Martin is from East St. Louis, Illinois, just across the river, which has given Love, the No. 128 recruit in his class by 247sports.com, a different perspective on the coach given his relationships in local basketball circles.
“The team is a lot better,” Love said. “He gets his players to play hard. He’s always encouraging his players. He’s a really good coach. He actually coaches the players.”
Love, who also holds offers from Xavier, Indiana State and Kansas State, regularly trains with former Tigers forward Jordan Barnett. They share a trainer in AAU coach Corey Frazier.
After CBC lost Davion Bradford, a consensus top-50 player in the 2020 class, when he moved to Arizona, Love emerged as a leader for the Cadets and showed what he could do as a defender, besides his usual scoring ability.
“Losing Davion was a big loss because he was a big man in the middle, but after we realized he left it just motivated us more,” he said. “We had to work much harder with more rebounding and getting down in the paint.”
Fletcher is the highest touted of the three, as he’s ranked No. 54 player nationally in the latest 2020 rankings by 247sports. Playing for Vashon, the same high school as McKinney, he can protect the rim and finish above it.
“He blocks everything,” Love said. “He’s one of the most athletic players on the team.”
And then there’s Kasubke.
A sharpshooter who can also score in transition, Kasubke helped lead Chamindae, the alma mater of Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, to the state title game alongside North Carolina State signee Jericole Hellems.
Kasubke has offers from Saint Louis, Tennessee-Martin and Missouri, and is hearing from Illinois.
He took advantage of Missouri’s national television schedule and was impressed with what he saw.
“I really like what Coach Martin is doing this season,” he said. “I watched them a lot this past season. I really like where the program is doing.”
Martin has shown his ability to stockpile St. Louis-area talent in his short time running the program, as he’s added the likes of freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon and transfer Mark Smith, and signed Torrence Watson and Javon Pickett.
But Martin has yet to land a player from the area on the first try, which is what makes the 2019 and 2020 classes so crucial to the program’s success.
Tilmon and Pickett signed with Missouri after asking out of their letters of intent with Illinois because of a coaching change. Watson initially committed to Ohio State. Smith committed to Illinois last spring shortly after Martin took the job.
Both the 2019 and 2020 classes will mark the first instance in which Martin has had ample time to build relationships with local recruits over a couple of years. It appears he’s off to a good start.