Missouri women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton helped get her nephew, who also happens to be the projected No. 1 NBA Draft pick next summer, to play for the Mizzou men’s team this season.
She also landed a big recruiting class for her own team.
The Tigers opened practice on Monday with Pingeton coming off one of her best seasons as a coach, and arguably her best offseason.
After leading Mizzou to a 22-11 record, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament and winning Southeastern Conference coach of the year honors, Pingeton added a pair of recruits in guard Haley Troup, a one-time South Carolina signee and post player Emmanuelle Tahane, a native of France who chose the Tigers over Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Pingeton is also caught up in the Michael Porter Jr. hysteria after helping bring the family back to Columbia. Pingeton said she always knew there was a chance Michael Porter Sr., who she hired to be her director of basketball operations, could potentially leave her staff as his kids got older. Porter Sr. went to Washington to become an assistant coach under Lorenzo Romar.
But after Romar was fired and Mizzou hired Cuonzo Martin to become its men’s coach, Pingeton was instrumental in helping bring the family — including Porter Jr.’s younger brother Jontay, also a MU freshman this fall — back to town, according to Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk.
“It’s been awesome,” she said. “I’ve got a really close-knit family. It was a really exciting day when they decided to come back to Missouri. It’s not going to last forever, people are going to have different paths and take different journeys but I think this is going to be a really special year.”
As for the Porters on Pingeton’s team, both are battling the injury bug.
Junior forward Cierra Porter was limited throughout practice last season because of issues with her left knee. Porter averaged 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds last year while playing through pain but Pingeton says not much has changed with her status.
“She’s only got a certain amount of miles left on that knee,” Pingeton said. “We need her on the court, but we need to be smart with how much wear and tear there is.”
Bri Porter, the eldest of the Porter siblings, will seek a medical redshirt this year and is likely done playing basketball after five anterior cruciate ligament tears during her career, according to Pingeton. Porter will travel with the team and act in a student-assistant role.
“In her heart she wants to play, in her head she knows probably from a quality of life standpoint, not the best decision,” Pingeton said.
Pingeton added that she’s been more impressed with how her nieces and nephews have grown off the court rather than what most people know them for.
“I think all of those kids at a very early age could tell they had the ‘it’ factor,” she said. “They were going to be pretty special. Great athleticism. At the same time everyone wants to talk about them as basketball players and what they bring to the table, they’re so much bigger than that. They’re a high-character family. They understood their value comes from who they are and what they do.”
▪ Kansas transfer Lauren Aldridge is expected to make a big impact in her first season and will likely start at point guard for the Tigers. Aldridge is currently in law school, which Pingeton said is the first time she’s ever had a player doing both at once. “She’s got a chance to be really special for us,” Pingeton said.
▪ Missouri junior guard Sophie Cunningham’s back is in good shape after lower back pain caused her to miss time last year. “From a structural standpoint, she’s in a really good place,” Pingeton said.