Missouri will have an open scholarship should forward Jontay Porter remain in the NBA Draft rather than return for his sophomore season, but Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin is not set on utilizing it.
Martin said his program — which recently missed out on Ole Miss commit Blake Hinson — would not “take a guy just to take him.” He likes the flexibility of being able to add a transfer in December.
“I also don’t think it’s pressing to have all 13 scholarship guys. You don’t play 13 guys,” Martin said Tuesday during an athletic department promotional stop. “So you’d rather have 12 guys. You have 12 that you like, you can develop.
“There’s a 13th guy, you’re not really happy with him, you don’t really know him, and all of the sudden he’s out of your program. We had guys that transferred in our program this past year. We really didn’t know them that well. We recruit them late, tried to develop the relationship. Not that it was bad on anybody’s part — it really just didn’t work out.”
Martin seemed to be referring to either C.J. Roberts or Blake Harris, two freshmen guards who left the Tigers before the end of the season.
Harris, who transferred to N.C. State in December, had been committed to play for Washington with Michael Porter Jr. Harris only considered Missouri once Porter Jr. decided to play for MU, and though Harris started nine games for Mizzou, he struggled to secure regular playing time at point guard.
Roberts had committed to play for former MU coach Kim Anderson, and Martin re-recruited him. But Roberts transferred to Texas Tech after the Tigers decided to redshirt him.
“We’re not rushing into doing anything,” Martin said. “You don’t want to get a guy if he can’t help the program, and all of the sudden you’re trying to replace a guy moving forward. He has to fit what we’re trying to do.”
The Tigers could have two open spots for December transfer if rising senior guard Cullen VanLeer medically retires — an idea Martin has acknowledged. VanLeer tore a knee ligament late last season, and Martin said that before he thinks about adding a transfer to take VanLeer’s spot, the program’s focus is on “making sure Cullen’s healthy and doing what he needs to do.”
“Again, we’re not pressed to get guys in here if they can’t fit what we’re trying to do,” Martin said. “It’s not a rush or anything to get a guy and you’re not happy with them. We have a lot of time to watch and evaluate.”
Martin would get rid of one-and-done
Last week, Martin woke up ready to listen former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deliver the Commission on College Basketball’s recommendations for fixing the sport. Until the NCAA decides which of the commission’s recommendations to adopt, the Mizzou coach only has thoughts about one topic the report addressed: the NBA’s one-and-done rule.
The commission recommended that the NBA abolish its rule requiring prospects to be a year removed from college, which mostly results in elite players spending just a year at the NCAA level. The commission has also floated the idea of making freshmen ineligible if the NBA doesn’t change it’s rule.
Martin isn’t quite sure how he would handle a potential rule change — “It’s never a right answer,” he said — but the coach believes prospects should be able to go pro out of high school. He also thinks that maybe the NBA should determine whether a player is able to enter the draft after one season in college.
“If they’re truly getting rid of one and done, I think it helps the young guys,” Martin said. “My whole thing with the one and done, what I would like to see happen, is for the NBA team to say, ‘This young man is a one and done.’
“It’s one thing for me as a prospect to say, ‘I’m a one and done.’ I won’t determine that. I think the NBA determines that by where they draft me. I don’t know if you’re considered a one and done if you go in the second round of the draft.”
Sitting out could benefit Smiths
Mizzou officially announced the signing of Evansville transfer Dru Smith on Tuesday. He, like Illinois transfer Mark Smith, will have to sit out next season. When the two are eligible to play for the Tigers for the 2019-20 season, they’ll be part of a potentially deep and talented Missouri team.
Martin thinks it will benefit both players to sit out a year, per NCAA rules. He mentioned defending national champion Villanova, which has redshirted players who have turned into key contributors.
“One of the things that separates Villanova from a lot of good teams in the country is the opportunity to develop,” Martin said. “They’ve had the opportunity to redshirt guys, and they do great things. … I think that’s where they separate themselves. It’s not that many guys with stars and all that accolades. It’s just guys coming and putting the work in.”
Martin said both Smiths are players “who can play on the perimeter, guys that are good decision makers, guys with the ability to score the ball, with the ability to make shots and do a lot of different things when you’re talking about being a good basketball player."
And he hopes they’ll even better a year from now.