On Monday, we took stock of the players we know will be filling a Missouri uniform next year. But as we mentioned then, there are only 11 scholarships occupied thus far. Mizzou has two more to give out if they so choose, and as Frank Haith told The Trib's Steve Walentik earlier this week, he will likely choose to give them out.
Haith aims to make Missouri one of those programs as soon as next season, and that means building up the roster as much as possible before making the move. He has two open scholarships for next season with less than a month until the start of the spring signing period, which begins April 11.
"We're going to use them," Haith said. "We're going to find a way, whether it be a guy that can help us this year or another transfer opportunity. … We would like to have one more impact guy in the post if we can."
The title of this post is, shall we say, narrow in its focus, but it is worth it to look at some of the known candidates for these two extra scholarships.
Five-Star Recruit, Class of 2012
6-foot-7, 190 pounds (Porterville, MS)
The No. 9 player in the Class of 2012 per Rivals.com, Pollard plays like a really high-upside Laurence Bowers. He is long and lean, but he has incredible elevation and a soft jumper. He rarely speaks to reporters, so no one really knows where he is leaning with his recruitment, but we do know this: he visited Columbia for the Mizzou-Kansas game in February, and he visited again around Selection Sunday. You don't visit twice in about six weeks if you aren't seriously considering a school.
The addition of Pollard would completely transform Missouri's rotation. Mizzou already has a solid backcourt in Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon, Keion Bell, and Jabari Brown (eventually), and they already have nice length on the wings in players like Brown, Earnest Ross and Negus Webster-Chan. Pollard would give them, in effect, a second Laurence Bowers, someone who can guard wings and/or block shots near the rim, someone with both decent rebounding an interior scoring ability who can draw his defender to the perimeter and either shoot over them or drive on them.
One never knows how quickly a freshman can get himself up to speed -- sometimes they are ready to make an instant impact, and sometimes it takes a while. His high school stats are just silly (24 points, 16 boards, five blocks), but as with Jabari Brown, Pollard would not face pressure to produce immediately, especially on the offensive end. Mizzou has enough offensive explosiveness already that Pollard would be able to let his game develop and contribute in more of a small-but-growing way instead of having to produce 15 points per game immediately.
The competition for Pollard is strong -- he has visited Texas recently, he has shown interest in Alabama and Georgetown, he is supposedly watching with interest to see who Mississippi State hires to replace Rick Stansbury, and Kentucky is still hovering in the background, waiting to strike. And since he doesn't talk much, we have no specific idea of where Missouri stands. But his visits show the Tigers have a chance, and wow, what a late signing this would be.
(For more on Pollard, check out the three "Diary of Devonta Pollard" videos at the bottom of this post.)
Three-Star Recruit, Class of 2012
6-foot-3, 175 pounds (Chicago via Florida)
Shawn Smith committed to Missouri in late-August, just as Frank Haith was catching quite a bit of Nevin Shapiro-related heat. He didn't sign during the November signing period, apparently because of academic concerns. As late as December, he told PowerMizzou that he was still going to sign with the Tigers. Now ... we're not completely sure where Smith stands with Missouri, or vice versa. Sentiment seems to favor Smith going elsewhere at this point, but who knows?
If Smith does make it to Columbia, it appears he will bring with him what I will just say is a pretty standard looking shooting guard's skill set. His highlight video is all 3-pointers and dunks, though it bears mentioning that he has a very pretty jump shot (and isn't afraid to use it). As of early February, Smith was averaging about 20-5-5 for his Florida team (Faith Baptist). One would assume he would be less likely to make an instant impact than someone like either Pollard or, in terms of actual Mizzou signees, Ryan Rosburg (since size is more of a need than shooting guards).
Four-Star Recruit, Class of 2012
6-foot-10, 205 pounds (Milwaukee)
It appears that Missouri's interest in this lean big man has picked up recently. It is unclear whether Nolan has an offer from the Tigers or not, and it is equally unclear whether they can make up ground versus other schools that have been recruiting him for a while (Oklahoma, Minnesota, Marquette, Tennessee), but he is a name to watch.
Like so many high school big men, it is impossible to gauge anything from his highlight film, which is mostly just dunks and awkward replay edits. But you can't teach 6-foot-10, and though he would probably have to gain a little weight before being counted on to make a lasting contribution, there are worse things in the world than stumbling across a four-star center in the late signing period, no?
UConn Power Forward
6-foot-9, 240 pounds (Lowell, MA)
The conclusion from yesterday afternoon's discussion on the matter of Oriakhi and one-year SEC transfers: we have no idea if Oriakhi, or any other player who chooses to transfer because of the NCAA's new rule regarding players on teams facing a postseason ban because of APR-related difficulty, would be allowed to transfer to an SEC school or not. We will have to wait and see. Here's what we know, about both the rule and Oriakhi:
1. The SEC wants no part of the "student-athlete can transfer somewhere else to play his senior season if he is in grad school" rule. Apparently the league was embarrassed by Jeremiah Masoli's single autumn spent in Oxford, and in the midst of a lot of other really good changes, they also made this change. Why they chose to be embarrassed by the Masoli incident -- one that included less sleaze than any number of other recruiting rules or incidents -- I'm not sure. But they were.
2. The SEC's rule does not directly apply to Oriakhi. Maybe we will find that they apply this to any one-year transfers of any kind, but as far as I can tell, the SEC is not on record regarding players transferring because of APR-related postseason bans. So maybe they would allow Missouri (or any other SEC school) to pursue Oriakhi, and maybe they wouldn't.
3. Alex Oriakhi likes Phil Pressey. He said so himself, unprompted. They are friends from AAU ball, and apparently Oriakhi really liked Pressey's passing ability. Whether Flip would be able to induce Oriakhi to play a year in black and gold, we have no idea. Whether he would even try, we have no idea.
4. Oriakhi would be an absolutely incredible addition to Missouri's 2012-13 roster. Let's assume for a moment that Pressey, Dixon, Bowers and Earnest Ross are guaranteed starters. We have no idea if they are or not -- Ross still has to prove himself, and for all we know, Dixon will be playing sixth man again (I highly, highly doubt it, but who knows) -- but what would be the perfect addition to that lineup: a devastating rebounder. Oriakhi is far from an amazing offensive player (his usage rate shows he is rarely used within the bounds of the offense, and he is not a great shooter from either the field or free throw line), but he has ranked in the nation's Top 500 for offensive rebound rate in all three seasons at UConn (30th in 2010-11), he has ranked in the nation's Top 160 in block rate all three seasons (110th in 2011-12), and he is, at worst, a bit better than Ricardo Ratliffe on the defensive glass. In going for blocks, he does take himself out of rebounding position at times (not unlike Steve Moore), but it is not difficult to get starry eyes thinking about his 2010-11 contributions to UConn's national title team (8.7 points, 9.6 boards, 1.6 blocks per game) and applying them to next year's Mizzou squad.
For all we know, Oriakhi might not either consider Missouri or be allowed to consider Missouri. But with his connection to Flip Pressey, we will consider him a possibility until he releases a favorites list that doesn't include the Tigers.
What about other transfers? Here is a list of current known transfers. According to this list, none of the players on this list ever announced that they were considering either Miami (Frank Haith's old team) or Louisville (Tim Fuller's), so it is hard to say that any of these players are likely targets. We will know more as more names come out over the next month, but for now Oriakhi is the only one that has even the smallest connection to Missouri or any of Missouri's players or coaches.