What a week, folks.
Where to begin? Where not to begin? Well, we have a lot to get to, so I’ll stop asking questions to myself and just get this puppy rolling.
Jontay Porter announced on Wednesday that he’s coming back for his sophomore season at Missouri. I wrote about what the implications were for the program shortly after the news dropped, but here’s the Sparknotes version.
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No rebuilding year for Cuonzo in Year 2 or the forseeable future: Missouri will be in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid next season and the year after.
Tons of publicity for the program: NBA executives and scouts will be regulars at Mizzou Arena next season and Porter will be the face of the program as a potential all-conference candidate.
And, the reason why we’re all here, recruiting: Any prospect that visits Missouri for a game next year will see the first two things I just mentioned. Martin can sell players on what he’s doing now, his player development of Porter and how an in-state recruit gets treated by Mizzou fans. I’m probably missing a lot of other things, but those are the first that come to mind.
Speaking of hoops visitors…..
I would have paid to be a fly on the wall when 2020 Vashon star Cam’Ron Fletcher visited on Wednesday. Missouri probably already knew Porter was coming back, but I would have been interested to hear how Martin talked about the things I just mentioned.
Fletcher and Caleb Love are right now the top two in-state priorities in the 2020 class, but that could change. Getting 2019 point guard Mario McKinney, who is high school teammates with Fletcher, could go a long way.
The 6-foot-5 wing is an athletic specimen and hasn’t really blown up yet. A top-50 prospect in his class, his other big offers are from Illinois, Iowa and Kansas State. Getting him on campus early is good news for Missouri.
While we are on 2020 …
I recently got an information dump on the recruitment of Josh Christopher, the 2020 five-star prospect, who is the cousin of Missouri strength coach Nicodemus Christopher. I’ll start with a fun fact.
Christopher attends Mayfair High School just outside of Los Angeles. The program’s junior varsity coach is Dante Dixon, who is the cousin of Lee’s Summit native and former Missouri star Michael Dixon.
This could be a red flag to some, but I’m told Mike Dixon could potentially be a guy Christopher seeks out to get an opinion on Missouri. Dixon’s own actions got him kicked off the team in 2012, and I think that could be nothing but a plus since Dixon was a solid player aside from his off-the-court issues.
For a blue-chip recruit, it appears Christopher’s recruitment is wide open. Arizona was on him early but lead recruiter Lorenzo Romar left for Pepperdine. UCLA and USC have issues of their own, as the Bruins' fan base isn’t crazy about coach Steve Alford and the Trojans still have the FBI cloud hanging over their head.
Missouri has neither and also has a family member on staff in Nicodemus, who Josh used to spend the summers with frequently before his coaching career found him moving across the country.
I started this bit on a fun fact, so I’ll end on one. Christopher is close with Shaquille O’Neal’s family and even calls the NBA legend “Uncle Shaq.” He’s also friendly with the hip-hop group Migos. And you thought you were cool as a 16-year-old?
The curious case of Parker Braun ... solved!
I woke up on Thursday to my co-beat writer Aaron Reiss calling me to say Parker Braun had committed to Missouri as a walk-on.
Aaron and I are around each other more than I care to think about, but I had never questioned his sanity until then. Or maybe I was just mad that he cost me an extra hour of Z’s.
Nevertheless, he was right. Braun passed up numerous Power-5 offers to commit to MU, where his mother, aunt and uncle all played. I never thought I’d use the phrase ‘big time walk-on pickup,’ but yes, it exists.
For Missouri this is a steal. You get a kid that had an Arizona offer for free for a year before putting him on scholarship as a sophomore. Braun said it remains unclear whether or not he will redshirt next season, but if he can see the floor, Missouri can be scary.
Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon and Braun. That’s a frontcourt where the smallest player is 6-foot-9. Have fun with that.
This recruitment also stood out to me for a few other reasons:
It’s the first time I remember Michael Porter Sr. landing a recruit that wasn’t one of his sons: OK, to be fair, Porter Sr. also helped Missouri women’s basketball land Kayla McDowell (now Michael) back in the day. But good for him. It’s very obvious why he was hired at Missouri, and he’s shown his ability to recruit outside of his own home. I wonder if this helps Missouri with fellow MoKan player Malik Hall, who has blown up this spring.
Look at the optics for Martin: He landed Torrence Watson and Javon Pickett from the St. Louis-area and then got Braun from the Kansas City-side of the state. In his first full class, he got three solid recruits from both ends of the state. That’s a nice start.
I wonder why schools don’t do what Missouri did more: By that I mean take a scholarship guy as a walk-on for a year before putting him on the books. To be fair, Braun’s father is a doctor and can afford the year of tuition. Not all families can. But so many recruits fall off a school’s radar because they run out of room. If a school wants you, and the player wants to go there but the room isn’t there but the money is, who says no? I wonder if we will see more of this.
What does this mean for Christian Braun: The younger Braun is a 2019 point guard prospect. Does Missouri take him too? The Tigers are already high on Harlond Beverly, McKinney and some other guys. I can’t see Cuonzo pulling an Alford and selling his soul for a bunch of highly-touted brothers (see the sons of Ball, LaVar), but who knows. He’s a name to keep an eye on.
While one case is closed, another opens
A lot of talk has been centered around Grandview point guard Jordan Lathon, who recently opened up his recruitment after being a longtime Northwestern pledge. Many have wondered if Missouri would go after him, with just two scholarship point guards on board for next season.
So far, the Tigers haven’t. And the clock is ticking.
I’m told Lathon would surely be interested in Missouri if the offer came. But to quote an old coach who has been doing this longer than me, “If a guy is on the market this late, there’s probably a reason for it. It could be a good reason, or it could be a bad one.”
The word on Lathon is that he got denied admission to Northwestern. It’s one of the most prestigious schools in the country, but the Wildcats wouldn’t have taken him if he didn’t have the grades.
He had the entire year to get admitted to the school, so something is up. Missouri has to do its homework on Lathon if it's interested, and you can’t blame the Tigers for taking a pass. I don’t need to quote the coach again.
So the kids real name is Rocket Watts, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to namedrop one of my favorite Nickelodeon shows of all time. (Side note: remember when Nickelodeon was, you know, watchable?)
Watts, whose real name is Mark, is set to release his top seven on Friday. I expect Missouri to make the cut. If the Tigers aren’t in it, I will eat crow next week.
I also expect Michigan State, Michigan, Louisville, Xavier, Marquette and TCU to make his list. That's purely a guess. We’ll see how well I did later on.
Right now I think Watts is a guy that will take an official visit to Missouri. After that it’s hard to predict more. But the program is in good shape with him.
In the midst of all the basketball news, it’s actually a huge weekend for Missouri football. The Tigers host a pair of highly touted St. Louis prospects in Jack Buford and Kyren Williams.
Buford is an offensive lineman from Lutheran North, the same high school as Ronnell Perkins. Williams is a wide receiver from Vianney with a ton of big programs after him.
MU coach Barry Odom has said he’s not a fan of official visits being moved up, and I see why. Columbia doesn’t have much going on over the summer and Odom has joked he hopes there’s a good PG-13 movie playing that he can take recruits to. (Personally, I recommend Deadpool 2, but I haven’t seen Solo.)
I do think there is some good to this, however. Last year, the whole point of the ‘Tiger 10’ was to get a guy to jump on board early. That never happened. And Missouri ended up going 1 for 10 with that group.
Getting a local guy to jump on board early is a best-case scenario for Odom this year, and he can have that with summer visits from guys who want to end the recruiting process early. Let’s see if it works.
Another list cut
Missouri made the top-eight for Omarious Burnam, a 5-foot-11 athlete out of Conyers, Ga. His other seven schools included Georgia Southern, Applachain State, FAU, Ball State and Western Kentucky among others.
Burnam is used a lot as a running back in high school and could get a look at defensive back. Given the other compettion Missouri has to deal with, it appears the Tigers are in good shape, especially if Burnam wants to play high-level college football.