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With C.J. Roberts’ transfer, Mizzou laid the potential groundwork for a big addition

The Tigers now have an open scholarship and a pitch to make to Webster Groves point guard Courtney Ramey.

Early Thursday evening, freshman combo guard C.J. Roberts’ intention to transfer from Missouri broke into public view.

On its face, Roberts’ departure isn’t all too surprising. Before Missouri’s victory over Wagner, Roberts and sophomore forward Mitchell Smith were spotted on the bench in warmup attire. Afterward, coach Cuonzo Martin announced both would be tagged with redshirts.

It was also fair to wonder this spring whether Roberts, who was rated by some services as a four-star prospect, would stick for long. The 6-0 guard was a holdover from the Kim Anderson regime but, in theory, offered Missouri a quick, downhill scoring option who thrived in transition.

But the coaching staff’s preference for junior guard and anointed pest Jordan Geist chewed up minutes that might have been allocated to the freshman, who only played two minutes in the Showdown for Relief and was never seen again.

Put simply, Roberts stuck with a staff who didn’t recruit him and didn’t see a path to minutes anytime soon. In today’s climate, those are prime conditions for an early departure.

mizzou scholarship count 12-7-17

Well lookie here, MU has an open scholarship

Webster Groves point guard, a top-50 prospect in the class of 2018, is still looking for a new landing spot. Mizzou now has room for him.

But all of this buries the lead about the implications of Roberts’ exit: Mizzou has an open scholarship and—given its poor ball-handling—a pressing need for a point guard. There just so happens to be one roughly two hours away in Webster Groves—one who’s diligently working through a renewed recruiting process and recuperating from a broken wrist.

Since backing off his pledge to Louisville, which fired Rick Pitino after it was ensnared in a federal investigation into bribery and college basketball, Courtney Ramey and his father, Terrell, have worked deliberately to find the top-40 prospect a new home. During October, coaches beat a path to Webster Groves’ open gyms, including new suitors like Villanova, UCLA, Clemson, and, yes, Missouri.

But the clock slowed down when the Rameys announced he intended to sign during the spring period in early April. Since late September, Mizzou fans have hoped Martin’s momentum in St. Louis would carry Ramey west to Columbia.

And that’s where the timing of the Roberts news is curious. It came just a day after Rivals reported Ramey had set four official visits. Not on his list? Missouri. Naturally, it sent tremors of panic through a segment of the fanbase. Twenty minutes, though, after the story went live, Terrell Ramey, who is also his son’s grassroots coach, offered clarification on Twitter.

So, what’s the state of play for Ramey

Now, on the latest episode of Dive Cuts, Sam and I said the lack of a visit shouldn’t raise alarms. The Rameys can make trips down any time they please.

The bigger issues were three-fold. First, Mizzou didn’t have a scholarship readily available. Second, four players—Roberts, Geist, Blake Harris and Terrence Phillips—vied for minutes at lead guard. Third, competing programs had immediate needs for a point guard. For example, Villanova could see Jalen Brunson leave early, leaving a top-10 program in need of a pass-first guard who is also a tough defender.

Roberts’ decision to bounce a day after all transpired leaves Mizzou with an open slot for next season. And, quite frankly, the roster math was always going to be tricky. Moving forward, Harris, Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter all figure to be major assets and ones Martin would want to stick around.

That left veterans such as Geist, Phillips or Cullen VanLeer. Yet each of them will be a senior, and none—as of now—are likely to be graduate-transfer candidates. So why would any of them leave a rebuilt program to sit for a year at a program—if your Geist or VanLeer—that’s from a one-bid league? That left Smith and Roberts, but transferring would mean sitting another year or dropping to the JUCO ranks.

Tonight, though, we found out Roberts will try to carve a path to another destination. Bailing now also makes sense. As a mid-year transfer, he’d only miss half a season and keep his Division I options open.

Now, Martin and his staff can state clearly they have room for Ramey. They can sell the opportunity to come in and stake a claim early to a key role—ideally on an NCAA tournament team. And they can pitch Ramey on playing alongside his Ramey-Jets United running mates in Torrence Watson and Javon Pickett. How compelling it proves remains to be seen, but it’s a case the staff can make without qualifiers.

The timing of the decision is also ideal, coming a little over four months out from the start of the spring signing period. By transferring at semester’s end, Roberts gifted the staff 12 more weeks to persuade the Rameys their best option is sticking close to home without putting themselves in a position of having to ask someone to make room.