So...How's Recruiting Going? (Basketball edition)

Being this close to football season means one other thing--we're getting this close to "official visit" season in basketball recruiting.  So before we get going completely into football mode (then again, we have been for about eight weeks already), I thought I'd take the time to check in on the other major sport at Mizzou (oh wait...have baseball and wrestling surpassed it now?).  There have been some new names emerging on the radar, and at least one older name on the radar might be deciding soon, so let's see what's up.

And once again, I'll be using a bunch of Rivals.com information here, so as always I should say that a) you should become a subscriber, and b) if anybody from PowerMizzou/Rivals has a problem with me sharing any of this, tell me and I'll remove whatever I need to.

A Late 2008 Development

With Keon Lawrence's surprising-but-not-surprising departure, there's an extra scholarship available, and Missouri may be attempting to fill it at the last second.  NY big man (okay, tall man...he's not very big yet) Teeng Akol has been released from his South Florida scholarship...and the story is rather confusing.

Akol had been provisionally accepted into USF and allowed to enroll in summer classes with his teammates, but was told this week that he would not be accepted into the university. Muraisi said Akol "just wanted to go in another direction," but it appears he did not have a choice.

"It's something personal," Muraisi said. "I know he struggled with his decision. He loved the guys, loved the coaches."

Because Akol was not admitted to USF, it appears he will be able to sign elsewhere and play this season despite taking classes at USF. Typically, an athlete would have to have a year in residence at a new school before being eligible to play. Muraisi listed several schools as options for Akol, including Missouri, Fresno State and UNLV.

So he decided that USF wasn't a good fit for him...after USF didn't admit him. Or something. Either way, he's a 6'10 guy with a 3-star ranking, and there are certainly worse ways to fill an unexpectedly open scholarship. Especially considering that he seems to be improving quite a bit by the day.

"Most people have him rated among the top 20 power forwards nationally. Without a doubt, he's a top 50 kid in the country. He's the kind of kid that's going to get really good, really quick," Barto said.

For the past year, Barto and the coaches at IMG have worked closely to help develop the Sudanese native. And a quick look at their resume shows they might know a thing or two about talent. During Barto's tenure, IMG has tutored 42 Division I players – including a recent class that featured Kenny Kadji (Florida), Jared Swopshire (Louisville) and Akol. The Academy has also become a pre-Draft training destination for NBA hopefuls. Six of the league's top 11 picks in 2007, and five of the top 20 in 2006 made their way through IMG.

Barto thinks Akol, with continued development, can be just as successful as any of his peers.

"When he came in here, I saw a kid who was skinny as hell and could shoot it a little bit. But he's going to end up being a unique guy in the Big East. He'll be a face-up four man who'll be able to play inside-out. He's not going to be a power guy inside, but he's skilled, puts it on the floor well and has some nice up-and-under moves," Barto said. "And he'll get out and run."

So...a higher-upside Leo Lyons, in other words?  I'd take that, especially if he's a higher-upside-without-the-pouting-tendencies Leo Lyons.

I know nothing about USF's academic standards, and I'm not at all sure why he could enroll here and not there--plus it sounds like there's a good chance he'll end up taking another year at prep school--but if somehow this guy falls in our lap and is ready to play this year, I'd be more than okay with that.

2009 Scholarship Situation

For now we'll assume Akol doesn't make it to Columbia.  That means there are nine players on scholarship for 2009-10--Miguel Paul, Marcus Denmon, JT Tiller, Zaire Taylor, and Kim English in the backcourt; Keith Ramsay, Steve Moore, Justin Safford, and Laurence Bowers in the frontcourt---and likely four schollies available for the 2009 class.  You'd figure the most likely scenario there is two backcourt guys and two frontcourt guys.  If Akol does make it to Como, you figure he takes one of the frontcourt schollies, and we still nab two backcourt guys.

Who Is (or Has Been) on the Radar?

Backcourt

The Main Targets

By all accounts, Mizzou's had two guards at the top of their wishlist since the start, and both remain available and have Mizzou at or near the top of their list.

Mike Dixon (Kansas City / 6'0 / 165 / ****) - Due to his being a) a Missouri boy and b) really good, Dixon (#100 on the Rivals 150 for 2009) is thought by some to be the touchstone of the class for Mizzou.  Sign him, and it's a successful class; don't, and it's at least a smidge tainted.  I'm not sure about that (the next guy I'm going to talk about is the biggest get to me), but he's obviously big.  He's visited Columbia many, many times, and his last visit supposedly solidified Mizzou at the top of his list.  He likely won't commit anywhere until taking his official visits in September/October, and his top 5 of Mizzou, Cal, OU, Purdue, and Arizona is all over the (geographic) map, but I think it's safe to be relatively confident in Mizzou's chances.

Michael Snaer (Moreno Valley, CA / 6'4 / 185 / ****) - To me, this guy's the big prize, not only because he's highly-rated (#47 and rising), but because of what he would represent--an honest-to-god big-time recruit that Mike Anderson and staff went out and got (i.e. he wasn't in our backyard). What's Mizzou's connection to Snaer?  Melvin Watkins is in good with his AAU coach, Elvert Perry, and scored with a Perry prospect in the past, shocking the world by getting Antoine Wright to come to ATM.

The last two Rivals.com articles on Snaer have been extremely conflicting.  One is presumptuous enough to say that "he could start for numerous Pac-10 programs - a conference he'll likely end up playing in with offers from USC, UCLA, Arizona, Cal, and Washington - right now."  The other actually asks him for his favorites, and he lists none of the above teams...instead saying Mizzou, Stanford, Marquette, and Florida State are atop his list.  In the latter article, he also mentioned that he would be committing soon.  Not to be a total jinx, but I'm pretty optimistic about our chances here...especially with the latest rumor that he's down to just MU and FSU.

The Other Possibilities

What happens if we don't get one of these two?  There are other names on the list, including some that have recently emerged...

The first backup appeared to be Arkansas guard Fred Gulley, but he committed to Oklahoma State.  Another option is a name familiar to those who follow football recruiting--Maplewood's Bryant Allen, a two-sporter in high school who would love to do the same in college.  But if he comes to Mizzou, it will be on a football scholarship, and...well...in theory the football team will be qualifying for many bowls (knock on wood) during Allen's college years, meaning he wouldn't really be available to the basketball team.

So who are the more realistic backups?  Well, supposedly one name is a guy whose summer performances have bumped him from mid-major to major status: Houston's Raymond Penn.  It's too early to surmise anything on him, but supposedly Missouri is in pretty good shape, and if they were to offer they could be the leader.  But they're not going to offer as long as Snaer and Dixon are out there.  Other names may include Ohio's Carl Jones or Florida's Chris Perez, who both list Missouri as options, but again we won't know who's at the top of the list until we see where Dixon and Snaer end up.  We'll see.  For now it's all about Dixon and Snaer, with Penn seeming to have become backup #1.

Frontcourt

Here's where it gets a lot more interesting.  Lots of names floating around, and I'll try to be careful and not mention names that were listed in a recent Chamber (because as we all know, what's mentioned in the Chamber, stays in the Chamber).

The Main Targets

Tyler Griffey (Ballwin, MO / 6'8 / 210 / ***) and DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, AL / 6'9 / 250 / *****) were the initial top-tier targets, and they've committed to Illinois and UAB, respectively.  Griffey committed to Illinois smack in the middle of Athenagate, so that remains a lingering disappointment.  Memphis forward Reginald Buckner (6'8 / 195 / ****) got a Mizzou offer and mentioned them a couple times...and then committed to Ole Miss.  But there are others on the radar.

Near as I can tell, here are the current names at the top of the list:

Arsalan Kazemi (Patterson, NC via Iran / 6'8 / 200? / not yet rated) - I've made it clear that this is the big man atop my wish list, and being that he has a confirmed offer from Mizzou, you have to figure he's atop the coaches' as well.  He's (allegedly) talented, he's (allegedly) athletic, and his growing exposure would probably lead to a pretty good PR situation for Mizzou, a team who--let's face it--needs as many good PR situations as they can get.

Ray Turner (Houston / 6'8 / 220 / ***) - Another sleeper-turned-major-conference-caliber player, Turner has emerged recently to garner offers from schools like Mizzou, OSU, Baylor, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Marquette, and TCU.  I have NO idea where Mizzou stands, but they've offered him, so he makes the priority list.

Christian Watford (Birmingham / 6'7 / 215 / ****) - Watford has a Mizzou offer, and he sometimes lists Mizzou as an option.  He appears to be an Indiana lean, and I doubt Mizzou has more than a 10% chance at him.

DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, AL / 6'9 / 250 / *****) - Wha?  Rumor has it that Cousins is contemplating re-opening his recruitment, and Mizzou was near the top of his list before his surprise commitment to UAB, so...well...that's it.  We'll see.  I'm not counting on it, but...hey...I won't complain if we end up getting a visit from him after all.

Anthony Borden (West Memphis / 6'10 / 220 / not yet rated) - This article says Borden has a Mizzou offer.  It also says Mizzou's not in his planned visit list.

The Other Possibilities

Well...we're already somewhat onto the second-string candidates, a.k.a. the other possibilities.  Above are all the known offers, and checking the Rivals database, it looks like the next level of candidates include small-town Kansas SF Tanner Poppe, Nashville PF Richard Anderson, Birmingham PF Edward Daniel, Illinois PF Jordan Prosser, Georgia PF Torin Walker, JUCO PF Will Coleman, and NJ center David Bruce.  PowerMizzou members heard a couple more names in last week's Chamber, and there may be some new articles coming out soon, but for now those are the known names.

Summary

A dream class and a caveat:

The Dream Class: Mike Dixon, Michael Snaer, DeMarcus Cousins, Arsalan Kazemi.

(Add Teeng Akol to 2008, and it's a tossup (for me) between Cousins and Kazemi.

Get three of those four, and it's a great class.  Two of four, good class.  One of four, a could-have-been class.  None?  Let's not think about that just yet.

The caveat:If you'd drawn up a Dream Class for 2008, it would have included guys like Travis Releford and Scott Suggs, and it appears that the guys we got instead of them may work out pretty well.  That said, it would be fun to actually get the guys on the initial wish list, especially if Cousins comes back into the fold.  It sounds like the odds are pretty decent that Dixon and Snaer may both come aboard, but the frontcourt is a mystery.  We'll see what happens, huh?

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