University of Missouri

This week in Mizzou recruiting: Francis Okoro cuts list, pipeline to Michigan and more

Missouri Tigers men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin
Missouri Tigers men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin skeyser@kcstar.com

On Fridays, Alex Schiffer, one of The Star’s Mizzou beat writers, offers some notes and thoughts on the Tigers' football and men's basketball programs’ recruiting efforts, including scholarship offers and list cuts from the past week.

Each week I’ll go over some recruiting news from both football and basketball and offer some thoughts on what both programs did or didn’t do. I’ve never done something like this before, so please send me suggestions if you have them. 

So let’s get to it.

Francis Okoro cuts to three

Francis Okoro, a consensus four-star 6-foot-9 power forward out of Normal, Ill, became the first big-time player on the loaded under-17 Bradley Beal Elite team to cut his list. On Thursday night, Okoro announced a final three of Purdue, Oregon and Illinois. All three schools have been recruiting him hard and those are the ones he’s been most linked to throughout the process.

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Okoro’s recruitment has been very tough to read, given that rumors have swirled that he’s reclassified a year up to 2018, which is still unclear as of Friday morning. Of the four major recruits on Bradley Beal Elite, Missouri had the least likely shot to get Okoro given that Purdue and Oregon have recently had him on campus. The Tigers remain in very strong contention for Mario McKinney, EJ Liddell and Terrence Hargrove Jr.

If Okoro stays in 2019, there’s plenty of time for Missouri to become more of a factor. If he goes to 2018, who knows?

Football offers a familiar name, with a familiar goal

Missouri offered 2020 Oak Park (Mich.) tight end Maliq Carr this week. Carr is considered a Power 5 player in the class and is the latest player offered by wide receivers coach A.J. Ofodile, a Detroit native who has helped Missouri land players from his home state since joining Barry Odom’s staff.

The offer stands out because Carr is the son of Missouri assistant basketball coach Cornell Mann. Because of that, I was a little surprised the offer didn’t come sooner: Ofodile offered the son of a coach who is trying to do the exact same thing as him at the exact same school — build up a pipeline from Michigan to Mizzou for their respective sport.

Ever since Cuonzo Martin hired Mann to his basketball staff, Missouri has offered a slew of Michigan prospects, taking one out of legendary coach Norm Stewart’s book. The Tigers remain in solid shape for 2019 targets Rocket Watts and Harlond Beverly.

I’m sure this is far from the last time a school has had both major programs try to recruit a state that isn’t in the region, but I wonder the last time a coach had a son be the target for both programs for said pipeline.

Carr is also a standout basketball prospect and is on the radar of multiple Division I teams. He recently visited Notre Dame for football and plays on the Nike EYBL circuit for The Family, which makes it inevitable that Martin could watch him at some point.

Mann and Ofodile have a lot in common. They’re both Michigan natives working at the same school and they have both gone through the recruiting process as parents. Mann got his start in coaching as an AAU coach while Ofodile was a longtime high school coach at Rock Bridge in Columbia.

Mann isn’t the kind of coach to run his son’s recruitment, so the ball will be in Carr’s court as to what sport he plays in college and where. 

Tigers make cut for Texas tight end

On Thursday night, Jared Wiley, a three-star tight end out of Temple, Texas, announced a top three list of Missouri, Texas and Houston. I call this recruitment the Texas Bowl because Missouri played Texas in the Texas Bowl, which is in Houston. Stupid joke, but Wiley would be an impressive get for Missouri, because he hails from a town not too far from Dallas, Austin and Houston, all big recruiting hubs nationally.

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A quick watch of his highlights shows Wiley to be a big target at 6-foot-6 and a capable blocker. His high school seems to have him under center a decent amount as the star of a wildcat formation. He’s got a good arm when he wants to throw it and can shake a tackle.

Since he got to Missouri, tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley has had a heck of a run. He helped Sean Culkin, a target some could say wasn’t thrown the ball enough, make the Los Angeles Chargers roster as an undrafted free agent. Then Finley helped the emergence of Albert Okwuegbunam last season.

Former tight end Jason Reese just signed a free-agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and redshirt senior Kendall Blanton has the frame (6 feet 6) to get some NFL looks next spring. People smarter than me with this stuff told me to not be surprised if Reese makes the Tampa Bay roster, with the team not having much behind former Alabama star O.J. Howard.

With Okwuegbunam already being looked at as a player who could leave for the draft with a strong season, Finley could potentially have four NFL tight ends in three years on the job.

DJ Carton cuts his list and … no Mizzou

DJ Carton, a four-star point guard from Iowa, released a top six on Thursday night and Missouri did not make the cut. His list consists of Ohio State, Xavier, Marquette, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan. Carton’s recruitment has gone national in recent weeks as he’s picked up offers from Southern California, Ohio State and others after a strong start to his AAU season.

Carton plays on the NY2LA circuit, which isn’t sponsored by a major shoe company and was watched by Missouri through the first two weekends of the AAU season.

Assistant coach Chris Hollender was the lead recruiter for Carton and was able to get him on campus twice. Once for an unofficial visit over the summer and another in-season for Missouri’s game against Kentucky.

With Carton out of the mix, Missouri still has options at point guard. McKinney is still a heavy priority but appears to want to wait until his high school season to decide. Watts said Missouri is right there in his recruitment alongside Michigan and Michigan State and plans to cut things down at the end of the summer. Beverly can play both guard spots and on the wing. As Martin aims to make Missouri more positionless, Beverly is a name to watch. McKinney and Watts are both combo guards.

The final scholarship

Much has been made about what Missouri should do with its final scholarship should Jontay Porter stay in the NBA Draft. Martin has said that it’s not a done deal that it gets filled, citing the calendar as a reason why it’s worth pocketing. With the school year ending and summer school starting in a few weeks, the recruiting process this late is like speed dating. You only get to know a person so well in a short amount of time.

Martin has said he likes the flexibility of keeping the scholarship available so he can add a transfer at the end of the fall semester. If the Tigers don’t end up doing that, though, maybe they would put walk-on Adam Wolf on scholarship to close out his career.

Wolf tore his ACL last season but is a fan favorite among Mizzou fans. He even has his own chant (Feed the Wolf) to get Martin to put him in late in games, as well as his own walk-up song (Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’) blasting when he finally checks in.

The 6-foot-7 shooter is a rising senior, which would still give Martin the scholarship to use for the 2019 class, a major one for what the coach wants his program to become.

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