Missouri’s 2019 basketball recruiting plans suffered a major blow on Monday as top target E.J. Liddell orally committed to Ohio State.
The 6-foot-7 senior power forward at Belleville (Ill.) West High School chose the Buckeyes over the Tigers and Illinois.
“They had a great tradition for a long time,” Liddell told the Belleville News-Democrat. “When I was a kid, I always loved Ohio State.
“I imagined myself playing in an Ohio State jersey as a football player, but when I noticed I was a basketball player I still had the love for them also.”
Liddell added that it was a tough decision and that he hadn’t made up his mind until Saturday.
Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin and assistant Chris Hollender quickly made Liddell the top priority for the 2019 class after taking over the Tigers’ program in March 2017. Liddell’s father, Eric, grew up with Martin in East St. Louis.
The Tigers recently picked up a commitment from 6-2 point guard Mario McKinney, Liddell’s longtime friend, which many considered to be a boost to Missouri’s chances. McKinney plays at Vashon High in St. Louis.
Liddell joins a loaded class for Ohio State, which also features four-star recruits D.J. Carton and Alonzo Gaffney, a 6-9 forward whose skill-set is considered similar to Liddell’s and is an Ohio native. Despite concerns about their ability to play together, coach Chris Holtmann sold Liddell on joining the Buckeyes.
Missouri can still add up to two more players to its 2019 class, assuming sophomore Jontay Porter goes pro at the end of the season.
The Tigers deliberately waited for Liddell to make his move before acting upon any backup plans. Martin and his staff haven’t followed any players like Liddell on social media lately, a usual giveaway to new recruiting targets, and will likely start offering new players this week.
Liddell is the first big miss of the Martin era. Missouri’s coach picked up the likes of Torrence Watson, Jeremiah Tilmon, Javon Pickett and Mark Smith in the St. Louis area since taking the job.
Courtney Ramey was the other St. Louis prospect who got away, but he was committed to Louisville when Martin originally took the job. Ramey eventually signed with Texas.
Missouri’s primary targets in the 2020 class are Caleb Love, Cam’Ron Fletcher and Josh Christopher, all of whom are guards. Christopher’s cousin Nicodemus is the Tigers’ strength coach, while Fletcher is teammates with McKinney at Vashon.