University of Missouri

Missouri basketball players ‘really excited’ about hiring of Cuonzo Martin

Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin responds to question about Porter family

Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin was asked about Michael Porter Sr. and his son, Michael Porter Jr., on Monday, March 20, 2017. Porter Sr. is a former coach on the Missouri women's basketball staff as well as the Washington men's staf
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Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin was asked about Michael Porter Sr. and his son, Michael Porter Jr., on Monday, March 20, 2017. Porter Sr. is a former coach on the Missouri women's basketball staff as well as the Washington men's staf

In a quest to solve the puzzle that was the hiring of Missouri’s 19th men’s basketball coach, Jordan Barnett would have needed to look no further than the contacts on his phone.

The junior, who transferred to Missouri from Texas during the 2015-16 season and averaged a team-high 12.2 points per game last season, was recruited by Martin when he was in high school. On Monday, he said he still has Martin’s “Tennessee phone number.”

At the time of his recruitment, Martin was coaching the Volunteers. Now, just a few years later, it’s all come full circle for Barnett and Martin.

“I’m really happy. I know it’s going to work out for not only myself, but this entire team,” Barnett said. “I think it’s a really good hire.”

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So, too, did sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips, who found out about the hire when he picked up his phone while eating at Shiloh Bar last Wednesday.

Missouri sophomore forward and Blue Springs native Kevin Puryear was alerted thanks to calls from his mom, Vicki.

Puryear said that throughout the process that spanned no more than a week, he attempted to stay off of his phone due to the number of texts, calls and tweets he was receiving.

Since the hiring, though, Puryear has enjoyed talking about his new coach. And on Monday, prior to the introductory press conference that took place inside of Mizzou Arena, Puryear and his teammates got to talk to their new coach.

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“They’re wonderful young men,” Martin said. “I talked to them about an hour ago, and they’re obviously great guys. … The biggest key is, if losing basketball games — if that’s the worst thing they’ll go through in life — then they’ll live a great life.”

Said Puryear: “I went out to Chipotle and this guy asked, like, how do you feel about your new coach? I’m really excited about it. … I’m excited about the turnaround and I feel it.”

Cuonzo Martin spoke at an introductory press conference on Monday, March 20, 2017, at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.

A key piece to that turnaround would be the hiring of Michael Porter Sr., and commitments from Porter Sr.’s sons, high school junior Jontay and high school senior Michael Jr.

Asked about the possibility of playing with ESPN’s top-ranked recruit in the class of 2017, Barnett laughed.

“I would love that,” Barnett said. “That would be awesome. I think Michael Porter is a one and done talent, so to get him here would be really cool for this university.”

Martin, who spoke to reporters following his introductory press conference, declined to speak about the recruit due to NCAA rules.

He did, though, provide a comment on Michael Porter Sr.

“Knowing him, he was a coach at Washington,” Martin said, “so I do know who he is, yes.”

New Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin was introduced during a news conference on Monday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.

Two hours after Phillips saw the news on his phone, he received a call from a number with an Oakland, Calif., area code. The point guard knew exactly who it was.

Like Barnett, Phillips, who played at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, was recruited by Martin in high school. Of the conversations the two had, Phillips said he was impressed with Martin’s energy and his passion.

“He keeps it so up front with you,” Phillips said, “and I think that’s what we all really just need.

“I’m just such a high energy guy and having a coach like that — it brings excitement.”

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