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How will Cuonzo Martin reshape Missouri’s roster into a winner?

A coaching change means the task of turning the roster in a winner will fall into the hands of someone who didn’t pick the current players on the roster.

Basketball: Nike EYBL Finals at Peach Jam
I honestly can’t believe I’m using this image
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Sterk has tabbed Cuonzo Martin as the next head coach at the University of Missouri, and he’ll have the task of figuring out how to assemble the roster over the next few years. The roster currently only has two available scholarships, barring a max exodus (which shouldn’t be expected), and filling the roster out with the few remaining scholarships will be the most important task in making over this program.

First, it’s been awhile, but let’s reacquaint ourselves with the scholarship count graphic.

Scholarship Count 3-02-17

Changing your head coach means there’s a higher probability of roster turnover than what might be expected with a returning coach. The last few years notwithstanding, it’s normal to have transfers, but Missouri has absorbed an abnormal amount of departures, as has been documented time and again.

With Cuonzo Martin coming in, how much more likely is it that we see an extra departure or two?

We’re going to see a lot of things flying around over the next few weeks, I think. There’s a prevailing thought among Mizzou fans that the current roster is closer to success than the record might indicate. I’m less inclined to believe simply adding one or two of the right pieces can get this team close to the NCAA tournament bubble.

Addressing the elephant in the room, yes, the rumor is that Martin has hired or will hire Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach, therefore theoretically locking down the Mizzou attendance of Michael Porter Jr. and his brother Jontay for 2017-18. Upgrading the potential last two spots with MPJ and Jontay would be massive.

We’ll be keeping close track of who the new staff is targeting to join the roster, but let’s first review Martin’s options.


NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri
Jordan Barnett will be an important player next season.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

If everyone stays, the remaining two slots are obviously there for the Porters if they want them. The Tigers, more than anything, need a big and a scorer ... and Michael (a scorer) and Jontay (a big) provide what they need. If Jontay decides not to reclassify to 2017 as is rumored, it’s possible Mizzou tries to find another 2017 big man.

Where the big comes from is a question, I think, they’d try to answer through the grad transfer market to get experience on the roster. If not that, then a player from the junior college market.


You have to field a team next year, so not everyone will be “given the chance to seek other opportunities,” but there’s a reasonable scenario where the new staff tasks itself with filling five to six spots.

Basically, Martin could come in and decide to keep only the guys he feels can help him turn the ship around. Jordan Barnett, Kevin Puryear and Terrence Phillips would be safe no matter what, but after that? It depends on the eye of the beholder.

I could make reasonable cases for everyone else, and I’d certainly expect others to be included, but again ... eye of the beholder. All that matters is what Cuonzo Martin thinks can help him succeed. (APR concerns could also become an issue here, obviously.)

If the roster is blown up, we’ll have a busy few weeks of tracking a whole lot of potential recruits.


In this case, you encourage a few people to find other options. Somewhere in the middle is always more interesting, right?

The biggest quandary for me regarding this option is the three freshman big men. Jakoby Kemp is a redshirt, and typically players have five years to play four seasons. So when transfers happen that sucks up one of those years. Kemp has already spent that year. So the incentive for a redshirt to transfer is incredibly low because he’d lose a year of playing. So aside from going the JUCO route or going down a level to DII, transferring makes little for Kemp.

With Mitchell Smith coming off an injury, and Reed Nikko struggling to overcome his high ankle sprain, neither player got a chance to show any real signs of being able to contribute without serious development.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the freshmen, Jordan Geist has proved to be a top notch agitator, and he’s shown a weird ability to make absurd circus shots. But how much value as a secondary ball handler can he provide?

Cullen VanLeer is the always a hot target for the ire of Mizzou fans. Will a new coach come in and see his value? I think VanLeer can be serviceable, but he was just so often over-exposed by playing too many minutes.

So, who are the targets?

This is sort of a running list of guys who Cuonzo Martin may, or may not, try to bring into the fold in the next few weeks at Mizzou:

Basketball: Nike EYBL Finals at Peach Jam Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

There are a couple of other guys out there who have been mentioned to me, but I think those are much bigger long shots at this point.

We also might want to keep an eye on the transfer market. One name floated to me yesterday: our old friend Tyson Jolly. I wrote about Jolly two times — as a 2015 recruit and as a 2016 recruit.

Jolly originally committed to Cal but ended up in prep school for another year. Word is that he fell short of Cal’s academic standards and ended up going to Baylor. Jolly hasn’t played all season, so if Jolly opens himself to transfer, he could choose to play for Martin.

Last note, if it’s worth anything: Jeremiah Tilmon’s “crystal ball” pick was flipped to Mizzou by Andrew Slater at 247sports. So there’s that.

This is a very, very fluid situation right now, and we’ll be keeping an eye on everything that is currently in motion. Stay tuned.