University of Missouri

Blake Harris signing gives Mizzou basketball a top-10 recruiting class

Cuonzo Martin: 'Very exciting' three weeks

New Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin discusses a whirlwind three weeks since he was hired, including assembling a staff and hitting the recruiting trail.
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New Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin discusses a whirlwind three weeks since he was hired, including assembling a staff and hitting the recruiting trail.

Missouri announced Thursday that 6-foot-3 point guard Blake Harris from Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C., has signed a financial-aid agreement.

He is the second former Washington signee to sign instead with the Tigers during the NCAA’s regular signing period, which started Wednesday.

“We’re excited to welcome Blake Harris to the Mizzou Basketball Family,” Mizzou men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin said in a release. “His parents, Kellie and Bernardo Harris, did a great job raising a young man who understands the values of life, not just basketball. Blake’s attributes on the basketball court, working hard and never quitting, will be what make him an overall outstanding representative of our program.”

Harris felt an immediate comfort level with Martin and his coaching staff, which helped make a quick decision and cancel scheduled visits to Michigan State, Connecticut and Rutgers later this month.

“Mizzou’s coaching staff made me feel like I was already a part of their family,” Harris said. “They are men of God, which I appreciate. It isn’t all about basketball with coach Martin and his staff. Making sure I am doing well in all aspects of my life seemed what mattered most to them, which I respected. On the court and for the Mizzou program, I plan to be a winner. I like to lead by example and get the best out of my teammates.”

Like Harris, Michael Porter Jr. — who played last season at Nathan Hale High in Seattle and is the top 2017 prospect in the country, according to 247 Sports, ESPN and Rivals — had signed with the Huskies five months ago.

Harris and Porter each requested a waiver from that commitment last month when former Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was fired, making both players free agents after the releases were granted.

Porter signed Wednesday during a break at the Jordan Brand Classic all-star game in Brooklyn, N.Y., while the addition of Harris moved Mizzou up to No. 9 in the Rivals ranking of NCAA Division I recruiting classes.

Harris committed Sunday after an official visit accompanied by Porter Jr. that also included five-star Tampa (Fla.) Catholic wing Kevin Knox II.

It was that visit that swayed Harris.

“Mizzou has the best fan base I’ve ever seen,” he said. “My visit to campus was incredible. The whole place was putting off really great vibes and I’m just really excited to be a part of that.”

Harris, who played for the same program that produced NBA All-Star and former No. 1 overall pick John Wall, is a four-star prospect, according 247 Sports and ESPN.

Both peg Harris — who averaged 25.0 points and 9.9 assists last season, according to Mizzou’s release — as a top-100 player overall and a top-20 point guard prospect.

Harris received a three-star rating from Rivals, which moved Harris up to No. 131 overall in its latest rankings, and Scout.

He joins a backcourt that includes returning point guards Terrence Phillips and Jordan Geist along with shooting guard Cullen VanLeer and Richland (Texas) Hills point guard C.J. Roberts, who signed with the Tigers in November and reaffirmed his commitment last week after meeting with Martin.

“Throughout the recruiting process, Blake had his pick of schools he would likely thrive at as a student-athlete, but he chose the University of Missouri because of that unique feeling he discovered on our campus,” Martin said. “There is a level of excitement building here in Columbia that will be fun for everyone to be a part of, especially Blake, who will be a great member of our team.”

The Tigers — who remain in the mix for Knox as well as East St. Louis center Jeremiah Tilmon, who was released from a national letter of intent with Illinois earlier in the week — have two available scholarships for next season after guards K.J. Walton and Frankie Hughes decided to transfer.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer

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