Missouri fans are still riding high after the Friday commitment of Michael Porter Jr. Adding a player of Porter’s caliber immediately upgrades the ceiling on the team by at least several wins. Before we get into the recruiting and targets and whatnot, here are a few words on expectations for Porter.
No, I’m not here to temper them.
Michael Porter Jr. is a transformative player. I looked at the top overall player in the country going back to 2006 (when the NBA instituted its one-and-done rule), and here’s what we’ve got:
- 2016: Josh Jackson, 30.8 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.9 apg
- 2015: Ben Simmons, 34.9 mpg, 19.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.8 apg
- 2014: Jahlil Okafor, 30.1 mpg, 17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.3 apg
- 2013: Andrew Wiggins, 32.8 mpg, 17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 apg
- 2012: Nerlens Noel, 31.9 mpg, 10.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.6 apg
- 2011: Anthony Davis, 32.0 mpg, 14.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.3 apg
- 2010: Harrison Barnes, 29.4 mpg, 15.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 apg
- 2009: Derrick Favors, 27.5 mpg, 12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.0 apg
- 2008: Brandon Jennings, played overseas
- 2007: Eric Gordon, 34.7 mpg, 20.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.4 apg
- 2006: Greg Oden, 28.9 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 0.7 apg
The outliers of Noel and Favors notwithstanding (also, missing from the list is Kevin Durant who was second behind Oden and averaged 35.9, 25.8, 11.1 and 1.3), the best player in each class typically comes in and gives you 30 minutes, 15+ points, 6+ boards and a few assists. Another player similar to Porter would be Jabari Parker (30.7/19.1/8.7/1.2), sort of a bigger wing capable of playing the No. 2-4 at the next level.
Of those guys, MPJ is far more likely to be Mizzou’s Kevin Durant than Harrison Barnes. A line like 32 minutes, 22 points, nine rebounds, and two assists per game feels realistic for MPJ’s season next year.
Porter, the player, is a 6’9-10 wing with elite athleticism and the ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot. He might be the best player in college basketball next year, and just about everyone predicts he’ll be the top overall pick in the NBA draft in 2018.
His impact for both Mizzou and the SEC is huge. On one hand, he brings the single most important thing the Tigers needed this year: a reliable scoring threat. I’ve spent the last three years talking about how Mizzou needs a guy who you can throw the ball to when you need a bucket. Porter is that guy.
For the SEC, you have yet another program looking to elevate its profile. Porter brings instant credibility to Mizzou, a very good program that has been down on its luck in recent years.
Reestablishing that brand is important for both Missouri and the league. Porter is the seventh 5-star player to commit to an SEC school and 27th four- or five-star player headed to the SEC next season.
The scholarship count
Technically there is one scholarship available right now. If you believe all 10 players from last year’s team will be returning, then I’m not sure what to tell you. I don’t expect wholesale departures, but I’m setting the Over-Under at 2.5.
One question I’ve gotten recently has been about the Mizzou’s APR situation, so let’s address that:
This is the last year where Mizzou’s APR score is still affected by the awful 851 score received during Frank Haith’s last semester and Kim Anderson’s first. There was a truckload of turnover, and it’s still haunting the program.
The word is that Mizzou cannot afford for more than a couple guys to leave if their GPAs aren’t up to snuff.
If you need a refresher, I wrote about it last February. The threshold for penalization on a transfer is a 2.6 GPA. If a player has a 2.6 GPA and transfers to another four-year university, you aren’t penalized. If they have below a 2.6 GPA, you get docked.
Mizzou can afford one or possibly two sub-2.6 players to leave, but no more. We don’t quite know the grade situation of each student athlete, but it’s something to keep in mind when talking about wholesale change.
I expect Cuonzo will likely recruit to fill a five-man class. That class includes MPJ and CJ Roberts, so probably about three more spots. There are some big names still available, and Missouri may be trying to get in on a few of them. Let’s talk about them.
Kevin Knox Jr. (6’8, 195, 5-star combo forward, Tampa)
Knox is a McDonald’s All American from Florida who is still undecided on where to spend his time in college. His father is former Florida State Seminole Kevin Knox, who played wide receiver for Bobby Bowden in the 1990s. “Little” Kevin and Michael Porter Jr. have become good friends while playing the circuit and USA Basketball together.
Knox is being pursued by not only his father’s alma mater, but also Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina. You don’t get any more blue-blood than those three. From what I’ve heard, it’s almost a lock he ends up in the ACC, and Duke appears to be the leader.
The one caveat to that is that he is obviously trying to wait to see who declares for the NBA from what team.
Dream about landing Knox if you want. He does have one more visit he can take (each player can take five official visits), and there’s good reason to believe he’ll end up on Missouri’s campus for his last OV.
Still, the odds are super long that he signs with Mizzou in the end. Enjoy the YouTube clip above. It would be fun if he signed to play with MPJ.
Blake Harris (6’3, 185, 3-star PG, Raleigh)
Harris is a former Washington commit who reopened his recruitment when Lorenzo Romar was fired. Harris and C.J. Roberts have a lot in common, and in that respect I’d be surprised if both ended up on the roster. Harris is slightly more of a straight point guard while Roberts is a little bit more of a combo guard, but the reality is at their size, handling the ball will be important.
Harris was scheduled to be on campus today, but it appears plans were delayed:
Former UW commit Blake Harris tells me he will no longer visit Missouri tomorrow. Has rescheduled his visit to a later date.— Alex Schiffer (@TheSchiffMan) March 27, 2017
I think Cuonzo Martin views Harris as a backup in case Roberts decides to ask out of his letter of intent. And delaying Harris’ visit could mean the Missouri staff is giving Roberts more time to decide without using up an official visit on Harris.
Since people like predictions, I’ll make one: Roberts sticks with his commitment, and Harris ends up elsewhere.
One of the reasons why Roberts originally clicked with Kim Anderson was Anderson’s honesty. Cuonzo Martin and Kim Anderson have that in common. Martin is known for being very forthright and honest in his recruiting pitches, so in the end I think it’s enough to keep Roberts in the fold.
Mark Smith (6’5, 225, 4-star combo guard, Edwardsville, IL)
Smith is a much-discussed, fast-rising prospect just on the other side of the river in Illinois. He was offered by Kim Anderson and crew and was a former Mizzou baseball commit, so it seemed possible he’d be interested in coming to Columbia for basketball.
Smith was fortunately already being recruited by Cal, so Cuonzo picked up where he left off.
Smith is a prototypical Martin guard: he’s a big physical guy who isn’t an elite level athlete but gets it done with energy and strength. He’s a good shooter with the handle to play point guard and the strength to finish on the inside.
His late arrival on the scene has allowed other programs to get in a little ahead, and it appears as though Illinois may be the leader despite their own coaching change. The Illini retaining Jamall Walker as their assistant coach is important, as he was the lead on Smith prior to Groce’s dismissal. It would seem Missouri is behind right now, but Smith has been said to be wide open, so we’ll just have to see what happens.
Keep an eye on Grad Transfers
One of the easiest ways to supplement the roster at this point may be the addition of a few graduate transfers. I would expect Missouri to look at adding at least one or two grad transfers to remain flexible in recruiting for the 2018 class.
With just Jordan Barnett as a senior next season, plus Michael Porter Jr. an almost certain one-and-done, Mizzou would only have two scholarships coming open for a really talented 2018 class.
One big name that has stood out so far is Virginia transfer Darius Thompson. The guard played for Martin at Tennessee before transferring to Virginia, where he played two seasons after sitting out a year.
There are a couple bigs to keep an eye on as well: Kerem Kanter from Green Bay and Marin Maric from Northern Illinois. The threesome of Thompson, Kanter and Maric are completely speculative at this stage, but this will completely be something to watch.
ESPN usually keeps a running list of grad transfers, but they haven’t started it just yet. I’m sure we’ll dive deeper into the list once it becomes a little more comprehensive.
It’s also possible Mizzou takes a regular transfer.
Bryant transfer Nisre Zouzoua has heard from NC State, Illinois, Missouri, Arizona State, Maryland, Boston College, source told ESPN.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 24, 2017
Zouzoua (a pretty good last name for a Mizzou player if you ask me) averaged 20 points for Bryant last year as a sophomore and decided to try his luck in a better basketball league. This is another situation I’ll be monitoring closely.
About the 2018 class
We’re going to assume at this point that Jontay Porter is going to be a 2018 recruit, because he is. There’s a possibility he reclassifies, but that won’t happen until later in the summer if it does. So we aren’t going to assume one way or the other. Porter would be a very good addition to either class, and Missouri will obviously make his a top priority for whenever he decides to attend college.
There are plenty of other guys who will get offers from Mizzou in the coming days and weeks, especially in the 2018 class. We know Alex Lomax, a top 150 PG from Memphis is one. We know Jarius Hamilton, a top 60 combo forward from North Carolina, is another. As the spring goes on, we’ll spend more time talking about 2018, but for now I’m focused on next season’s roster.