Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin has made a statement in regards to in-state recruiting since taking over the Tigers basketball program a year ago. This week’s SEC Tournament has allowed Martin to fully flex his muscles in that area after joking that the conference tournament should be in his home city of St. Louis every year.
The Tigers currently have two open scholarships for the 2018 class and they are already prioritizing a number of recruits for 2019 in a class that features talent on both sides of Missouri, including Bishop Miege’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
With Martin seeing some targets in St. Louis while the Tigers are in town, here’s where the Tigers stand on some of their targets in that area.
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Courtney Ramey: A consensus top-50 recruit, Martin watched Ramey on Wednesday night as he went for 23 points, 11 assists and four rebounds in a sectional win over CBC. After decommitting from Louisville in the wake of the FBI scandal, Ramey, a point guard, had the likes of Villanova and UCLA courting him, but both programs recently added a point guard. The main competition for Ramey appears to be Texas but South Carolina coach Frank Martin and Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann also watched Ramey on Wednesday. With Missouri’s obvious need for point guards and his close friend Torrence Watson already signed, it’s hard not to like the Tigers’ chances.
Mark Smith: Smith announced earlier this week he is transferring from Illinois. Martin went after Smith, a one-time Missouri baseball pledge, hard after he got the job last year but lost out to another recently hired coach in Brad Underwood. With Smith just getting his release it’s tough to gauge Missouri’s interest and therefore its chances. He’s a name to keep an eye on though.
Mario McKinney: The cousin of former Missouri point guard Jimmy McKinney, Mario has had a breakout junior year for Vashon High School after coming off the bench for a loaded team as an underclassman. Martin and assistant coach Chris Hollender have been at a number of his games throughout the season. Iowa and Marquette have also been in to see him. Missouri has been considered to be in the driver’s seat for McKinney, and many think a commitment from him could help the Tigers land another key recruit.
E.J. Liddell: The recently named Gatorade Player of the Year for Illinois is considered to be a high Missouri priority for the 2019 class. The Belleville, Ill., resident was watched by Martin on Tuesday as he went for 20 points in a win over Quincy to advance his team in the sectional tournament. Illinois is another school that wants Liddell, but Martin and Hollender have been regulars at his games as well. Liddell and McKinney have been best friends since elementary school and a commit from one could heavily influence the other.
Terrence Hargrove Jr.: An East St. Louis product, Hargrove has visited Missouri a few times and is very close with freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon. Hargrove also took a trip to Illinois State recently and is considered an under-the-radar prospect after spending most of his AAU career playing on a lower circuit. The 6-foot-6 wing is considered a major breakout target for the upcoming summer because he’ll be playing with McKinney and Liddell on Bradley Beal Elite, making the team a favorite to win the Peach Jam. Hargrove has said before his dream school is Kansas, but while the Jayhawks' interest in him is cloudy, Missouri has offered him and watched him a number of times.
Francis Okoro: Okoro isn’t from the St. Louis-area, but the Normal, Ill., product is considered to be another tri-state (Kansas, Missouri, Illinois) target who is high on the Tigers radar. A consensus top-40 recruit, Okoro has had an interesting recruitment. He was supposed to release a top-five list in January, but never did. Missouri, Illinois and Oregon appear to be the only schools that watched him this season. While it’s tough to guess what’s next in Okoro’s recruitment, Missouri getting in to see him this season certainly helps the Tigers stand out.