Since my last post on this topic, Jayson Tatum's father Justin has gone on the record with our friend Dave Matter to talk about his son's recruiting in a four question Q&A in regards to Mizzou specifically being left out of the last four on his son's list. Much of what he said lined up with the content of my original post last week. The basic summation is that Mizzou didn't do what they needed to do to stay in the race for Tatum. Which was a blow to the Tigers to be eliminated by the in-state kid.
There are a few different ways to interpret this information, and I feel like I've seen them all. Steve Walentik asked if there was a reason why we thought Mizzou would/should have made the top 4? From that perspective I agree with Steve. There's no reason why Tatum would pick Mizzou after this last year in the SEC. 9-23 isn't going to lure many McDonald's All-Americans, much less the top overall recruit, even if he is from your state.
Sources close to the program have said that Mizzou felt they did all they could to stay in the Tatum race and that he was as high of a priority as any player on their list for 2016. There are limits to the number of times you can see a player, and even show up in the same place. Just as an example, Mizzou coaches had to be careful during the State Championship games lest they walk through the arena and Chaminade was playing, technically they would have to claim that date on the recruiting calendar. And considering they made that many appearances, it was best to not get dinged over something that trivial. Oh, the joys of the NCAA recruiting rules. There are limits to the number of phone calls and text messages you can send to a recruit. Mizzou feels that they walked up to the limit with Jayson and did everything they could to show him they wanted him.
From Matter's Q&A:
Justin Tatum: We just didn't feel the strong love from Mizzou as we did with the effort UNC or Duke or some others were putting in. Obviously, those are high-profile programs. If they can put their work in from hours and hours and miles and miles away, somebody can do the same thing from an hour and a half away.
So it looks like from what Mizzou sources are saying, and what the parent is saying there's something missing in the middle. For people looking to crucify Kim Anderson, there's fuel. The idea of Mizzou getting outworked on the recruiting trail by the big boys for the big in-state talent is a scary proposition with some big time recruits in the state over the next 3-4 years. For people that want to protect Coach Anderson there's plenty there too, Mizzou "wasn't going to land him" so why waste the effort? Honestly, that's a valid thought.
There's not going to be anyone who can say that having Tatum wouldn't help in 2016-17, there are plenty who will be right to say that Mizzou needs to focus on building the program and less on quick fixes. In fact, jaeger has a post coming tomorrow that talks about this topic exactly. I don't think anyone is expecting Missouri to go out and compete for top 10-15 players year after year and replenish the way Kentucky and Duke are able to. But there is a wealth of talent coming up in the state and Mizzou needs to be focused on keeping kids in the pipeline, because that pipeline is a quick way to success and getting more fans to buy in to what Coach Anderson and staff are trying to accomplish.
And it's not just the two big names that you know about either. It's not just Tatum and Michael Porter, Jr. It's Tyler Cook, Xavier Sneed, Jeremiah Tilmon, Carte'Are Gordon, and Courtney Ramey... all of whom are considered top players in their respective classes. Sneed and Cook are 4-star players in the 2016 Class. Tilmon is a top 20 player from East St. Louis in the 2017 class. And Gordon and Ramey are in the 2018 class. All St. Louis area kids, all on Mizzou's radar. Missouri doesn't need to sign all of these kids to win, but winning is made easier by signing kids of this caliber.
Tatum: I think Kim Anderson had big shoes to fill coming in and trying to get hometown recruits. I'm not faulting Kim or none of his staff. I just know there was a big hole to fill, and if they wanted to fill it, they probably could have done a better job. But then they had their program as well to deal with. They might have thought they were in good enough to bypass some time. I don't know for sure, but I respect Coach Anderson and those guys in charge of recruiting Jayson. It just didn't work out.
That it didn't work out is clear, but where did Mizzou go wrong? Was it simply a matter of time with their 9-23 record? Was the pitch wrong? I laid out what my pitch would have been in the last piece, but perhaps that wasn't enough. Is the coaching staff not clear on the amount of work necessary to land a recruit like Tatum, or is it that the kid saw Duke and Carolina Blue in the stands and didn't pay attention to the Mizzou black and gold? Coach Anderson is hard to miss at 6'8", but his public stature isn't the same as his reputation and clout as a coach at this point. I don't say that to knock Coach A, I know he's a terrific guy and I've been around him and his programs enough to know he's a good coach. But people are going to point at this past year and the record is what it is. It's not pretty.
Tatum: I think their program can get anybody, especially in the state of Missouri — just like their football team is getting high-caliber guys from this area. I think they can do the same thing.
Jayson became high caliber as he kept putting his work in, but a couple of his favorite schools early were Ohio State, Mizzou and SLU. SLU because of the relationship he's seen with me and SLU. (Justin Tatum played at SLU from 1998-2001). His grandmother loves Mizzou and he came up watching a lot of games and loving the atmosphere there. Then Ohio State was something as a kid, he liked Greg Oden and those teams.
I know for a fact that when Mizzou was the first school to offer him he went crazy for months that he got a college offer in eighth grade. I know Mizzou was high on his list for a long time. Once he started to get mature and saw that Coach Haith had all his baggage behind him and then was about to leave and they didn't know who they were bringing in next, all of that built up. So he put his thoughts somewhere else.
But I feel Mizzou can get any high-caliber player here because of the conference, the tradition and I think Coach Anderson has expectations that he can reach. Obviously they just threw him in the fire as a first-year coach. He's adjusted as well. I definitely think they can get high-caliber players. Nothing should be too above their stature in terms of players they can get.
This quote here is where it's the most clear. Maybe Mizzou isn't ready for a Jayson Tatum right now. Maybe they will be, but they're not in that league. For the record, I don't think you can reasonably say that SLU has a real shot against Duke either. They're still on the list because Dad is an alumni. And it kind of trumpets where Walentik was coming from. Maybe one more year of building and they'll be ready for Porter and Tillmon. And then another year they'll be ready for Gordon and Ramey. Who knows?
One thing that is abundantly clear is that at 9-23 and losing their top player, Mizzou was unlikely to land Tatum, despite the obvious need for a guy like that. It looks like there was more of a disconnect between recruiter and recruit rather than Mizzou just deciding Tatum isn't worth the time. I said last time that this is also a problem area because the pitch needs to be good to keep these kinds of players around. There are still inroads to be built for Sneed and Cook and the staff has time. They'll need to sell what they couldn't to Tatum. And they'll need to keep bringing in guys that are going to turn the heads of the rest, because a downturn in recruiting for one year turns into two in a hurry. The best thing for Mizzou to do is to wrap up this offseason strong, have a good year next year and capitalize with the guys they have. They're going to have to win more than 9 games before McDonalds All-Americans consider them a top destination.