University of Missouri

Mizzou will need a center to replace Jeremiah Tilmon. Who are the Tigers recruiting?

Cuonzo Martin talks Mizzou recruiting

Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin talks about the Tigers’ 2019 recruiting class.
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Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin talks about the Tigers’ 2019 recruiting class.

After the upcoming season, Missouri will lose center Reed Nikko to graduation and possibly starter Jeremiah Tilmon to the pros, with no current replacement options currently on the roster.

Safe to say, Missouri needs help in the post.

Enter Davion Bradford, Ryan Kalkbrenner or John Hugley.

Missouri is prioritizing the trio as its future down low once Tilmon turns pro and has put on a full-court press for all three players early in the AAU season. While the Tigers likely won’t end up with all three, MU has put itself in good shape with each prospect early, making it unlikely the program will have to pivot to other options.

Bradford and Kalkbrenner are St. Louis natives, playing at Mehlville and Trinity Catholic, respectively, while Hugley plays at Brush in Cleveland, Ohio.

Bradford started his career at CBC, before moving to Hillcrest Prep in Arizona, followed by a quick stop in Oklahoma. The 6-foot-10 center’s mother died last July, prompting him to move back home. After a year of moving across the country, Bradford said his past high school season has been good for him mentally and developmentally. He’s currently playing AAU for MoKan Elite.

“I’ve kind of settled down with a team,” he said. “I actually feel like I’m adjusted more too and feeling more comfortable. Right now MoKan is like the best AAU team I’ve ever been on ... we all get great experience on the court and all that.”

He’s recently picked up offers from Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa and said he plans to visit Columbia soon.

Bradford has quickly built a relationship with Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin and assistant Chris Hollender and said he plans to take an official visit to Missouri and Kansas State.

Bradford has a similar game to Tilmon in that he’s a traditional center who is a force around the rim, but without much range to his jump shot, which he admitted needs work. At 240 pounds, Bradford has much more of a physical build than Tilmon, but is still learning how to use it.

Kalkbrenner is much thinner than Bradford, but has a similar game and has taken off in recent weeks playing for Mac Irvin Fire out of Chicago on the Nike EYBL circuit.

At 6-foot-10, Kalkbrenner said his recruitment is wide open, as he’s heard from the likes of Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Missouri among others. Kalkbrenner has been to Mizzou Arena for a game, but never as a recruit.

He said the recent recruiting surge in the middle of the school year has caused him to currently put some of the process on hold. In June, he plans to sit down with his family and figure out which of the new schools they want to visit.

Then there’s Hugley. The 6-foot-8 stretch-four has also seen his stock blow up early in the AAU season, after Mizzou, Florida State, Florida, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Iowa and Kansas State all offered him.

Used as more of a center on the Indiana Heat, Hugley is a physical scorer around the rim that fights for rebounds and positioning.

Despite being a recent Missouri offer, he’s already planning a visit to Missouri and recently tweeted out a graphic of himself in a MU uniform.

While it’s early, Missouri appears to have a head start on addressing one of its biggest needs. Because the Tigers can’t take all three, one will likely emerge as a priority.

Kalkbrenner has said distance won’t be a factor in his recruitment, but Bradford said it could be for him.

“You feel comfortable at home,” Bradford said. “So I feel like that will be one of the factors.”

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.