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On Jayson Tatum, Recruiting, and landing the big fish

News that Mizzou is not going to be on the short list for Jayson Tatum came out on PowerMizzou... plus Kim Anderson's post season press conference provided some context for how Mizzou will approach recruiting.

UPDATE: per Tatum his final four are Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, SLU.

For those who were unaware, it came out on PowerMizzou yesterday that Mizzou was close to being eliminated from Jayson Tatum's list. Originally Mizzou made the top 10, and even as recently as last week Gabe had reported that he expected Mizzou to make the cut to the top 5. However it looks like it won't be a top 5, it will be a top 4, and Mizzou will not be on that list. (For what it's worth, it looks like Kansas, Kentucky, SLU will be on it with Duke the current favorite). This news seem to come shortly after Kim Anderson met with the media, and he talked some about recruiting. Here is the section:

Q: One of the criticism has been over the last three or four years there really hasn't been a plan. It's get the flashy one. Hit the news. No substance. What's the plan going forward for you as far as recruiting needs as opposed to making a big flash?

First of all, this is a bad question. But, it's always easy to dig the last staff because they aren't here anymore. Maybe they didn't have a plan, or maybe they had a plan but had a tough time executing that plan and had to make changes on the fly.

A: Well, I think that what we have to do at Missouri — and every school has to do this — I think they have to know who they can recruit. Who fits the University of Missouri? I think you have to know who you can successfully recruit and then recruit those people. I think that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to recruit guys that fit into our program, guys that hopefully want to be here and guys that we can develop into good players. I'm not saying that we don't want the five-star guy. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying we have to know who we can recruit. I think your question's really good.

So Kim liked the bad question. Great, encourage more bad questions.

You always want to recruit kids who will ultimately pick Missouri, but a major part of recruiting is building a relationship with players.

But I do take issue with some of this, because it shows a lack of understanding about recruiting at the power 5 division one level. You always want to recruit kids who will ultimately pick Missouri, but a major part of recruiting is building a relationship with players. At the division two level, recruiting is about identifying players that can help you and giving them your pitch. You can do that in a short amount of time. How do I know this? Because I was a division two player. I ended up at Rockhurst University and the courtship with me and Rockhurst was short. They sent a letter, made a phone call, we talked. I went on a visit, met with the coach, he offered a scholarship, I said I wanted to think about it (I had two other offers at that point), and after I thought about where I wanted to be (in Kansas City rather than a small town), I committed to Rockhurst.

This is not how it works at the Division One level. If you want to talk to guys in the top 200, you have to build a relationship with them. You have to work to get them to consider your school by offering a scholarship. You have to show them that they're important to you.

Q: So what did you learn then from the swing and miss on (McDonald's All-American big man) Thomas Bryant (who committed to Indiana on Saturday)?

A: I can't talk about him because he hasn't signed yet. ... But in generalities, I think that if you have a guy that you have a connection to, then I think that's a legitimate reason to recruit them. You can figure that out. I can't talk about the kid. I don't want to get in trouble.

A connection to a player is just the tip of the iceberg. How can you have a connection if you don't work to build a relationship with them? So they had a connection to Thomas Bryant because of Rob Fulford. But what about Jayson Tatum? A kid that was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. Parents that are from St. Louis. Yes his dad played for SLU, so his connection may be closer to SLU than Mizzou, but playing in the SEC, playing at the flagship school is not nothing. And the coaches simply didn't make Tatum a priority. Meanwhile, Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski flew halfway across the country on several different occasions to watch Tatum play. Duke is at his open gyms, they're at his AAU games, they schedule home visits, they are aggressive in getting him on campus, and are maintaining a level of contact that makes that player feel like he's wanted there.

Meanwhile, Tatum barely hears from Mizzou.

If you are a PowerMizzou subscriber here is the link to Gabe's thoughts on the topic. And I agree with Gabe on many things. I agree that Mizzou coaches need to understand where they are. Mizzou is a decent program with some good history. I think Mike Anderson executed his recruiting philosophy well, but also CMA was a system guy. He recruited guys to fit his system. He didn't have to recruit the best and brightest because those guys didn't always fit into his system. But where I disagree with Gabe is where he equates this philosophy of Kim Anderson to Gary Pinkel.

Missouri has had a lot of good players from a lot of good places. But the Tigers have never signed a five-star from outside the state of Missouri or the immediate area (Beckner was a five-star by a lot of people and he's from Illinois, but it's right across the border so you get my point). They haven't signed a ton of four-stars from outside the state. So you get good players from all over. And when you have a national star in your own state, you pour everything into getting him. Missouri football has had success doing so. They've lost a few (Ofodile, Elliott in recent years) but overall, they've gotten more than they've lost. If Blaine Gabbert, Sheldon Richardson, DGB or Jeremy Maclin grows up in pretty much any other state in America, Missouri's not going to get them. That's simply a statement of fact. And I believe Gary Pinkel's greatest strength is that he recognizes that. Sure, Pinkel would love to have signed Byron Cowart last year. And Missouri probably offered him. But I'm sure they didn't spend much time recruiting him. The simple fact is there are limited man hours and resources and visits and such. So you don't pour many of them into a kid you might have a 3% chance of signing. What Pinkel has done is largely get the "can't miss kids" from Missouri's recruiting area and supplemented it with kids who aren't considered elite recruits from outside that area. And it's obviously worked quite well. Pinkel knows what his program is.

As a football philosophy this works. But you also have between 15 and 25 commitments to accept each recruiting cycle. The margin of error is lower and the pool is much larger for football recruits. Pinkel is allowed to miss on half of his class each year as long as the other half works out. Basketball is a much different sport because one player can make such a difference, and missing on players causes roster gaps like we've seen the last few years.

Mizzou currently has a good stable of Freshmen, by the time they would be Juniors Jayson Tatum will be a freshmen.

Mizzou currently has a good stable of Freshmen, by the time they would be Juniors Jayson Tatum will be a freshmen. Tatum is a good kid who likes being close to home and is close to a lot of his friends on the St. Louis Eagles. Tyler Cook, Xavier Sneed (two guys that are already being recruited by Mizzou) and one of his closest friends Jordan Barnes. Barnes is a mid-major player right now, but in the right atmosphere could develop. Somehow I think a lineup of Wes Clark, Namon Wright, Montaque Gill-Caesar, Jakeenan Gant, D'Angelo Allen, Tramaine Isabell, Xavier Sneed and Tyler Cook along with Jordan Barnes could be pretty enticing to a hometown kid like Jayson.

Mizzou never went there. Whether they made up their mind early it wasn't worth the time, Tatum is exactly the kind of kid that you have to build a relationship with to be that "Can't Miss" or "5-star with a reason" recruit. There are all kinds of reasons why you should spend the time and energy to make Tatum feel like he's wanted. That lineup above is an NCAA tournament lineup. With Jayson Tatum it's a team with a shot at the Final Four. We'll never know if that could have been the case, because Tigers coaches decided that Tatum wasn't worth their time and energy. Or if you want a more negative viewpoint, maybe they don't realize what it takes to land a kid of that nature.

That is something to worry about because our big concern with Kim Anderson being hired was whether or not he'd be able to attract the kids needed to win. And in the next few years there are a lot of players in St. Louis and surrounding areas that have a "connection" to Mizzou. They're local, and they can help take Mizzou to the next level. If Mizzou doesn't put in the work to develop the relationships with them, with their parents, with their High School and AAU coaches, if Mizzou isn't showing up at their games more than the next coach... then the Tigers coaching staff is going to watch each and every one of those players head to another program.