On Mondays, Aaron Reiss, one of The Star’s Mizzou beat writers, will offer a digest of thoughts on the Tigers and MU story lines to follow. This week, Alex Schiffer fills in.
Jontay Porter was the talk of last week’s NBA Draft Combine, as the 6-foot-11 Missouri freshman elected to skip the 5-on-5 portion of the event, which is considered a heavy measuring stick for players who have declared for the draft without an agent (like Porter). At the time, Michael Porter Sr. told The Star that his son was advised to do so because of the current standing of his draft stock.
The Ringer reported Monday morning that the word out of the combine is that Porter returns to Missouri for a sophomore season. Sources have told The Star a return to the Tigers is certainly on the table but that the situation is fluid. I’m not even sure Porter knows what he wants to do right now.
But to borrow his own words, the situation is a “win-win.” If he were to stay in the draft, Porter is likely a first-round pick, based on his decision to skip the 5-on-5, and is a year closer to his next contract, the one where pros really get to cash in.
A return to Missouri would change the dynamic of coach Cuonzo Martin’s second team. Currently, Missouri is looking at a transition year without Porter, as the coaching staff will look to develop incoming talents Torrence Watson and K.J. Santos and hope Jeremiah Tilmon takes a step forward. The Tigers team in two years could be loaded when transfers Mark Smith (Illinois) and Dru Smith (Evansville) become eligible.
A Porter return gives Missouri a team that could contend for another NCAA Tournament and essentially lets Martin skip a transition year. The Tigers could run the offense through Porter, a stat-sheet stuffer. And Missouri would have enough scoring among Porter, Tilmon, Kevin Puryear and Santos to take the pressure off younger players Watson and Javon Pickett.
Porter has until the end of the month to decide, and given that he has a workout with the Atlanta Hawks on May 29, it could come down to the wire.
Barnett to work out for Lakers
Former Missouri wing Jordan Barnett will work out Monday for the Los Angeles Lakers, according to the team’s Twitter account.
I’m sure this isn’t Barnett’s only workout for pro teams, but it will be interesting to see what happens with his career and whether he goes overseas or stays in the states.
At 6 feet 7, Barnett has the size, athleticism and skillset to play in the NBA. He can shoot the three, which teams love, and has the build to be a lockdown defender.
But what else can he do? Barnett’s ballhandling has always been suspect and Stephen F. Austin coach Kyle Keller summed up the St. Louis product’s game best when he said “it’s mostly threes and dunks,” after the Tigers' win over the Lumberjacks in December.
NBA scouts have told The Star that Barnett is a player they’d love to have on their organization’s G-League team, because he’s a guy who could get a NBA call-up if he addresses some things.
Another executive went as far to say that Barnett will play in the NBA, based on his size, skillset and athleticism. That was also before he got arrested for a DUI in March.
Either way, Barnett has a higher ceiling as a professional in the states than Kassius Robertson, whose size (6-3) is too small to play on the wing in the NBA.
One thing to keep in mind: Barnett's senior season was his first complete one. He played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore at Texas before deciding to transfer at semester, and then sat out the spring and fall semester before playing half a season for Missouri as a junior. Teams don't have a ton of film on him.
What happens to Barnett going forward will be interesting to watch. At minimum, I expect him to get an invite to the NBA summer league.
Baseball heads to Hoover
Missouri baseball loves the dramatics, as it took the Tigers until their final regular-season game to punch a ticket to the Southeastern Conference tournament in Hoover, Ala., with a 8-2 win over Tennessee.
The win buys Steve Bieser’s team additional time to buff up its resume, which isn’t good enough to safely get into the NCAA Tournament. It also saved him an embarrassing moment. When Missouri was debating whom to hire as its next baseball coach, Volunteers coach Tony Vitello, then at Arkansas, was considered the fan favorite. Vitello was the Tigers pitching coach when the program had the likes of Max Scherzer and Kyle Gibson and many thought his hire would mean a heavy donation from the program’s alums.
Instead, former athletic director Mack Rhoades hired Bieser, who has looked like a strong hire two seasons in. But having your season essentially end by the guy fans wanted wouldn’t have been a good look.
A win or two from Missouri in Hoover could help the Tigers' tournament resume, as neutral site wins count heavily on RPI, where the program currently ranks in the 30s. A few wins could send it up to the point where Missouri is likely a lock for its first NCAA Tournament since joining the SEC.
Softball goes down swinging
No one knew what to expect out of Missouri’s softball team this season after longtime coach Ehren Earleywine was fired before the start of the season.
For the most part, Missouri had a similar season to last year as the Tigers hovered around .500.
But the Tigers did put up a good fight in the Norman regional before falling to defending national champion Oklahoma on Sunday. Missouri was run-ruled in Friday’s regional opener against Tulsa and then rebounded with two straight wins to make the regional final against the Sooners.
Missouri was 0-2 in last year’s regional.
Now it comes down to whether Jim Sterk thinks interim coach Gina Fogue deserves the job full time. Sterk has plenty to sell with the job, given the SEC’s strength as a conference and the program’s new stadium, which is only two years old.
Will Sterk go internally for the job or will he look elsewhere?