University of Missouri

Mother’s health prompts MU forward Jakeenan Gant to seek transfer

Missouri’s Jakeenan Gant (right) and Arkansas’ Keaton Miles battled for position as they eyed a rebound during a game in February.
Missouri’s Jakeenan Gant (right) and Arkansas’ Keaton Miles battled for position as they eyed a rebound during a game in February. The Associated Press

There will be no trace of the 2014 recruiting class when Missouri men’s basketball suits up next fall.

All five players who signed with the Tigers that season are gone after sophomore forward Jakeenan Gant opted to transfer to be closer to family.

Second-year Mizzou coach Kim Anderson met with Gant, who had shoulder surgery last month, several times and thought he was committed to staying.

“In the past few weeks his mother has developed a medical condition that necessitates his return closer to home to continue his educational and athletic pursuits,” Anderson said in a statement from MU athletics released Thursday. “While disappointed, we certainly support his decision. Jakeenan has been a joy to coach these past two years, and all of us — coaches, teammates and staff — wish him the best. We will do all we can to help in his transition.”

Gant struck a grateful tone in that same statement.

“My time at Mizzou has been great, and Coach Anderson and his staff really helped me develop as a player and person these past two seasons,” he said. “I’ll miss Columbia but feel the need to make a move with my family and mother in mind. I want nothing but the best for Mizzou in the future and appreciate the friendships I’ve made in my time here.”

Gant and guard Namon Wright signed with Missouri in November 2013 before former coach Frank Haith’s final season. Both stayed with the Tigers after Anderson was hired on April 28, 2014.

Anderson also signed guards Tramaine Isabell and Montaque Gill-Caesar along with forward D’Angelo Allen in that 2014 recruiting class.

Gill-Caesar transferred to San Diego State last summer, while Wright, Isabell and Allen each announced decisions to transfer after the 2015-16 season.

Gant is the sixth Tigers player to leave the program this season, joining Martavian Payne, Wes Clark, Allen, Isabell and Wright.

Gant, who averaged 5.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 53 career games the last two seasons, will have to sit out a year, but he has two years of eligibility remaining.

He was recruited from Effingham County High in Springfield, Ga., but Gant and his mother, La’Kenia, moved to the Ozarks before he graduated from high school. She has moved back to Georgia.

Allegations that a former Tigers associate head coach provided La’Kenia Gant with a phone number to facilitate housing and that Jakeenan Gant was among the players who took part in a no-show internship are at the center of an NCAA investigation that led to the self-imposed postseason ban last year and scholarship reductions for MU men’s basketball.

Gant was a four-star recruit and the No. 52 overall player in the 2014 class, according to Rivals, but that talent was only evident in brief flashes with the Tigers. He was suspended for the first nine games of the 2014 season for violating NCAA rules by taking part in the internship program at T3 Solutions in Georgia. Gant started 10 games in his Mizzou career and reached double figures in scoring seven times.

His departure leaves the Tigers with two vacant scholarships again. The program must forfeit one in 2016-17 or 2017-18 under the terms of self-imposed sanctions.

Assuming Missouri can document a relevant medical need for Gant to move closer to home, the program can petition the NCAA for an adjustment on its Academic Progress Rate score for 2015-16.

The Tigers received good news Wednesday when the APR for Anderson’s first season (976) was announced, but the program must continue to buoy an 851 from Haith’s final season for two more APR cycles.

If the rolling four-year average, which is currently 946, dips below 930, Missouri faces another one-year postseason ban.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer