University of Missouri

This week in Mizzou recruiting: Antonio Doyle, Axel Okongo, 2021 and Kevon Billingsley

Highlights of Mizzou 7’0 C Axel Okongo

Highlights of 7'0 C Axel Okongowho , who spent last season at Northwest Junior College in Wyoming and is a native of Saacy-sur-Mame, France.
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Highlights of 7'0 C Axel Okongowho , who spent last season at Northwest Junior College in Wyoming and is a native of Saacy-sur-Mame, France.

This week’s recruiting column comes as I’m multi-tasking while watching the NBA Finals, the Mets blowing another lead and cleaning my kitchen, so forgive me if I come off distracted at times.

Let’s jump in.

Axel Okongo commits to Missouri

I’m starting with basketball. I was just as surprised as the rest of you on Monday when Missouri landed a commitment from junior college center Axel Okongo. I didn’t see this coming at all.

I’m in the middle of reading a book about Kurt Cobain and I couldn’t help but think of Nirvana’s 1992 performance at the MTV Music Awards where Cobain kept yelling, “Hi Axel” after the set when I read Okongo’s name. (The book is called Serving the Servant by Danny Gallagher and is a great read, by the way.)

As for Okongo, it’s tough to break down the commitment given how unknown the kid is. He’s 7-feet tall, and all our commitment stories on him are already tops on his Google search because not much had been written of him before. Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin wouldn’t recruit a junior-college kid if he didn’t think the player could help immediately. So I expect he’ll get some minutes. After that, I don’t have much.

Junior college prospects are incredibly hit and miss. Keanau Post was a junior-college All-American and had a very underwhelming career at MU. Ricardo Ratliff was sensational and one of the best post players in the nation. It’s a crapshoot. No two junior-college leagues are the same the next year because the talent disparity is always fluctuating. One coach once told me that coaches sometimes recruit junior colleges based more on their reputation historically than what they did the past few years. Okongo hasn’t arrived on campus yet, and there’s no firm timetable for when that will happen. The sooner the better, of course.

It’s 2021 time

Friday is the first day that college coaches can reach out to 2021 recruits directly. Five-star recruit Aminu Mohammed down in Springfield will very likely be hearing from MU’s coaching staff as the Tigers will officially enter the sweepstakes for the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year. Mohammed is having a red-hot summer. He looked great when I saw him in Indianapolis at the Nike EYBL session and just left the Pangos All-American Camp as one of the camp’s top performers.

Mohammed is a fantastic scorer and is one of the few AAU players I’ve seen that seems to really get after it defensively. I don’t think it will take Martin long to become a big fan. Mohammed, a 6-foot-5 guard, is also a pretty nice kid. I’ve always enjoyed talking to him. Mohammed’s recruitment has been very quiet ever since he moved from Washington D.C. to Missouri, but the Tigers are close enough to where I could see him taking an unofficial visit after the AAU season ends.

I also expect MoKan Elite point guard Kennedy Chandler and St. Louis Christian Academy’s Jordan Nesbitt to to hear from MU. Those are the first three I can think of and obviously will report on any others I hear of.

Caleb Love update

Kansas offered 2020 guard Caleb Love during an unofficial visit this past weekend adding to the list of bluebloods for one of MU’s top targets. Love’s recruitment has been foggy for me to predict and this adds to that. I think it’s too early to speculate given how many schools are jumping in on him. He said back in Indy that he would know more of his plans for May, but that hasn’t really developed. Until he cuts his list, I really don’t know what to say on him. Mizzou is still in the mix of course.

Antonio Doyle and Kevon Billingsley commits to Missouri

I was in the middle of watching ‘Saving Private Ryan’ for the first time in my life on Saturday when I got a call from a friend of Antonio Doyle’s. “He’s really high on MU,” the friend said of Doyle. “But it could be honeymoon stage.”

I acknowledged the text and went back to watching Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and the crew. A half-hour later I got another text from the same person. “Call me.”

Absolutely nobody was expecting Doyle to commit to MU, especially that soon, but the Tigers are starting to make those situations a non-issue.

Hell of a get for MU football’s Barry Odom. I’ll say it one more time for the folks out west: Hell of a get for Barry Odom. I had been told going into the visit that Texas A&M and LSU were the schools most likely to land Doyle. Odom changed all of that in one weekend.

Go and watch the kid’s film when you get the chance. There’s no more Stanley Cup or NBA Finals games on Friday. It’s worth your time. He’s an absolute stud. This is a gigantic get for Odom, and it didn’t take long for him to land another big St. Louis prospect. On Friday morning, East St. Louis defensive lineman Kevon Bllingsley chose Missouri over Alabama among others. Missouri now has eight commitments in the 2020 class, with six hailing from the St. Louis-area.

I don’t think Brick Haley has to drive far to get his 2020 class intact. I like MU’s chances with Columbia’s Jalen Logan-Redding and St. Louis’ Joe Moore, whose dad played for the Tigers. Missouri is recruiting Lutheran North athlete Itayvion Brown, whom the Tigers like as a tight end. Brown is 6 feet, 5 inches and is on an official visit to Kansas this weekend. I think MU has a great shot at him, too.

Women’s recruiting note

It’s with a somber note I type this as former MU women’s basketball assistant coach Willie Cox will be laid to rest this weekend at Mizzou Arena. Cox recently passed away from cancer and was a longtime assistant for Robin Pingeton. I always enjoyed my dealings with him. He could make you laugh or smile without much effort and always seemed more interested in how you were doing than talking about himself. He’ll be greatly missed.

For Pingeton, the top in-state target for the 2020 class is Branson’s Priscilla Williams, who is a 6-foot-3 guard/forward that has a ton of suitors. Missouri is in the mix, and it’s tough betting against Pingeton with in-state recruits right now. I’m working on getting names, but am also told 2021 is a loaded year for in-state recruits. Pingeton might not have to go far for a top-flight class.

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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.