On March 17, Josh Christopher, a consensus top-15 sophomore in the country, tweeted a short message to Missouri men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.
“Send the offer,” Christopher tweeted, along with a link to a story about his cousin Nicodemus, who has worked with Martin since 2012 and serves as the Tigers’ strength coach.
Martin couldn’t reply to the blue-chip recruit without violating NCAA rules, but it appears he saw the message.
Martin and assistant coaches Chris Hollender and Cornell Mann were regulars at Christopher’s games during the opening weekend of the Nike EYBL season, and Christopher did not disappoint.
Playing for The Truth, an AAU program run by former NBA star Paul Pierce, Christopher went for 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds with all three coaches watching a 100-94 win on Sunday over Each 1 Teach 1, a Florida-based AAU program.
A natural scorer as a shooting guard, Christopher showed off his passing ability by finding open teammates all over the floor. He came through in the clutch, too. With E1T1 rallying late, Christopher pulled down the rebound off the would-be game-tying shot and hit his free throws to ice the game.
Martin and his colleagues had plenty of company with them to watch Christopher’s games. Oregon coach Dana Altman, Kentucky coach John Calipari and UCLA coach Steve Alford all stopped by.
While it’s early in Christopher’s recruitment, he’s already heard from the likes of Arizona, UCLA, USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Washington, Florida State ... and Missouri.
After averaging 14.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a freshman at Mayfair High in California, Christopher took his game to another level last season. He averaged 25.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in leading his team to a 21-8 record.
Perhaps his biggest sign of improvement came on the defensive side, where he averaged four steals per game after averaging half that as a freshman.
“I think I underestimated how good he was going to be,” said Tony Davis, Christopher’s coach at Mayfair. “I wasn’t expecting him to have the freshman season that he had, and the past season he made another jump. I don’t know what’s in store the next few years. It looks like he’s ready for another jump.”
A very complete player for his age, Christopher plays with some self-described “flash.” On Saturday, he had a behind-the-back crossover that he used on his way to the basket for a layup. During Sunday’s game, where he put on a passing clinic, Christopher fit the basketball into tight windows to find his teammates and also showed off his IQ for the game.
While younger players can sometimes get too fancy and commit turnovers, Christopher never made a bad decision.
Davis attributes Christopher’s ability to play flashy while not hurting the team as a reflection of his big personality on and off the court.
“He’s comfortable with who he is,” Davis said. “He wants to put on a show every time out. But because of his personality, I don’t think he’s stepping outside of himself. So it’s a more of a natural thing where he’s not trying. Other kids are trying to put on a show. This is just him.”
Christopher said he’s taking his time with the recruiting process and has no timetable set for a decision.
While Missouri hasn’t offered any recruits in the 2020 class yet, it’s safe to say the Tigers will be in the mix.
Hollender has already been out west to watch him, and the 6-foot-4 two-guard said he thinks of the world of Nicodemus. He believes Martin’s success at California and Missouri is partly a reflection of Nicodemus’ work with athletes.
“That’s my guy,” Christopher said of Nicodemus. “I love that guy. I can call him and talk about anything. At the end of the day, whether I pick Mizzou or not, that’s still family.”
As a strength coach, Nicodemus will never draw up plays for his younger cousin. But Josh said the family connection could still be a factor in his recruitment.
He dismisses the notion that Nicodemus, who also serves as a big brother to Martin’s players, can only help develop him physically. He said his cousin brings a lot more to the table than just weightlifting.
“If you have a basketball mind, you have a basketball mind,” Christopher said. “He knows what he’s talking about. Regardless, he’s going to get my game right whether it’s on the court or off the court. He brings great energy to the team.”
Hailing from the West Coast has given Christopher only limited knowledge of Missouri’s program, but he knows what a Martin-run program looks like after taking family trips up to Berkeley when his cousin and Martin were coaching at Cal.
Despite not knowing much about the program, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Christopher in Columbia at some point before he picks a school.
After all, he’ll always have a place to stay.
“I hear the fans are crazy up there,” he said. “If I were to pick a school like that, I wouldn’t be too worried about the basketball feel for Missouri. I’m not too familiar with it, but maybe I’ll go out there and go on a visit. Go see the fam.”