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Mizzou Links: Williams' probable departure is a surprise, even if it shouldn't be

No single loss is too devastating when it comes from a team that won just nine games, but Johnathan Williams' III rumored transfer certainly isn't a good thing for Mizzou's turnaround timeline.

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou Tigers pennant WELP

In case you missed it ... GOOD MORNING.

PowerMizzou: Talked to Johnathan Williams III's Dad
The Trib: Reports: Williams considering transferring from Missouri
Post-Dispatch: Report: Mizzou's Williams could transfer

Following that game, a first-round loss to South Carolina, the 6-9 Williams talked about returning to the Tigers next season as the team’s leader.

"It’s time to get going for next season," Williams said in the Mizzou locker room at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, "build a better bond and better connection with everybody with the coaching staff, too and try to improve over all."

"When you get knocked down, you can find ways to get back up," he added.

So this isn't officially official, but Gabe isn't one to announce "confirmation" if there's not a 99% chance it will be official ... and Wes Clark's tweet seems pretty definitive, I'd say. (That, or the milk in Wes' fridge expired, and he was feeling pretty sad about it.) I guess there's a chance he reconsiders before his official announcement, but that's probably a massive longshot.

Not going to lie: I wasn't worried about J3. My general sentiment heading into the offseason was that Mizzou would lose one to two players to transfer, and that the Tigers would survive that because no one player from a nine-win team is particularly irreplaceable. I would have probably been a bit more guarded in that had I thought that a J3 transfer was on the table. But it kind of makes sense: the turnover on this roster has been so quick and so intense that there were basically only two 100% Tim Fuller guys left on the table: J3 and Jakeenan Gant. Obviously that's an over-simplification -- Fuller helped to recruit/retain other guys (like Namon Wright), and others helped to recruit/retain Fuller guys (like Kim Anderson meeting with Gant and sealing that deal, so to speak). But Williams and Gant were the two most closely tied to Fuller. If I'd been thinking about it in that way, this news would be less surprising.

So here's the closest thing to a positive spin on this: Missouri was terrible with Johnathan Williams III. It's never going to be a good thing when your best player transfers, especially considering Mizzou's epic continuity problems over the last few years. While the Tigers were already going to have to replace their No. 1 minutes guy (Keith Shamburger), their next six were all scheduled to return. Mizzou's continuity and turnover have been so awful in recent years that this might end up being the least turnover Mizzou's suffered since 2011 even with J3 gone. (Kind of depends on whether five other guys transfer, too, I guess.) But losing your top two guys is certainly different than losing only one of two.

Still, we can't say that any single player was too valuable to lose on a team that, according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings, was worse than Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Duquesne, and Cornell. That's true even when that player is a really good rebounder and, by all accounts, a really good kid.

However Mizzou gets from here to its next good season (be that 2015-16 or 2025-26), it's going to take chemistry, experience, and full-team improvement, and no single guy, not even Johnathan Williams III, is going to get them there. This news means Mizzou might be even further away from a turnaround than we thought, but a turnaround's only going to happen with guys who want to be here.

In terms of next year's squad, though, this does place Jakeenan Gant in an interesting spot. There was major overlap between his skill set and J3's, and in theory, if he bulks up a bit and has a strong, focused offseason in the gym, he could be able to replace a certain portion of J3's production. Only ... he's the other Fuller guy mentioned above. Is he thinking about leaving, too, or are the late-season "Jakeenan seems much more happy and comfortable here" rumors still true now that the man who recruited him is leaving? From all we've heard and been assuming, the odds are still pretty good that Deuce Bello ends up leaving, too, but is that it? More after that?

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