After receiving his release from Illinois two months ago, Belleville (Ill.) East shooting guard Javon Pickett found himself in men’s basketball recruiting limbo.
Most schools had met their quota for next season, leaving Pickett without an ideal landing spot.
Instead, Pickett will delay entering college for one more year before joining new coach Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri men’s basketball program for the 2018-19 season, he told The Star by phone Saturday afternoon.
“This is just what we felt was best for me and my family,” said Pickett, who scored a school-record 25.3 points per game with 6.6 rebounds last season for the Lancers.
Pickett, a 6-foot-4 scoring machine, signed with the Fighting Illini in November, but he requested his release April 8, a few weeks after former coach John Groce was fired.
“Everybody has pretty much given their scholarships away and he was in a holding pattern for about a month,” Belleville East coach Jeff Creek said. “He really was stuck with not many schools looking at him, but he’s plenty talented enough to play at the high Division I level. (Prep school) is just an option that really came up in the last week or week and a half. I don’t really think he was thinking prep school at all.”
Aside from Illinois, Pickett — an ESPN four-star prospect, who was ranked No. 10 in Illinois and No. 37 among all 2017 shooting guards — also had offers from Saint Louis, Western Kentucky and Illinois State among other mid-major programs.
Scott Burgess of Prep Hoops Illinois was the first to report Pickett’s commitment to Mizzou, though Pickett doesn’t know yet where he’ll play next season.
Powerhouse IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., might be an option, but Pickett is still awaiting a recommendation for the best prep-school landing spot, according to Creek.
Pickett’s no longer taking recommendations for his college career.
“One, (Mizzou) is close to home,” he said. “Two, being able to play with (fellow former Illinois signee) Jeremiah (Tilmon) played a role. But with Coach Martin, when I talked to him I just really liked his vibe and his demeanor as an up-tempo guy. His energy level is always high and I just liked that about him a lot. I felt comfortable talking with him and just believe in what they are going to do with the program, the players they brought in now and what they’re going to do in the future.”
Pickett figures to be a big part of that future.
“He’s a long, rangy guard, who can score on all three levels,” Creek said. “He can flat-out score. He was first team all-state his junior year and second-team all-state this year. He creates his own shot. He doesn’t need an offense to score. He can create his own.”
That’s not the only talent he hopes to display at Mizzou.
“I believe I can still score at the college level,” Pickett said. “My shot has improved a lot, so I have a great shot, but I also feel like I can defend, get rebounds and pass the ball really well. I feel like I can do a lot and help the team out a lot.”
Pickett is a three-star prospect, according to Rivals and Scout along with 247 Sports, which pegs him as the No. 54 shooting guard and No. 260 prospect overall for 2017.
Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer