So far we’ve casually talked about Missouri’s 2019 recruiting by mentioning a handful of names here and there. Anytime coaches aren’t allowed to contact players via phone or text, it substantially limits our ability to assign top targets. The normal process is to see who they offer and attempt to follow the pattern into what they’re looking for, then keep tabs on guys over the next eight to 12 months to see what fleshes out.
As of midnight on June 15, however, coaches can now officially contact 2019 recruits. This means we can now start to put together a more comprehensive picture of what they’re focusing on for the class.
The semi-local guys
These are all the players in and around the state who Missouri is targeting. We’ll go from the top-rated on down to make it easier (all rankings provided by 247sports composite rankings).
No. 21 Marcedus Leech, 6’6 4-star CG (Poplar Bluff, MO)
We’ve talked about Leech for a while. He held a Missouri offer for two years under the previous staff and has an incredibly high ceiling. Injuries have largely limited him so far, as he started last basketball season with a stress fracture and has been dealing with another injury this summer.
To date, he hasn’t played in any AAU events, which is obviously limiting his exposure. However, he’ll be an attractive player to any and every school in the country and was recently quoted as saying a Kentucky offer was a “dream.” Right now the Crystal Ball has Kansas picked, which is kinda funny because Kansas has six CG/Wings with Crystal Ball picks in the 2019 class.
It’s early, Crystal Ball pickers. Chill out some.
I’ve listed Leech here as a CG, even though he’s more of a natural wing, because he chose his AAU team this summer by who would let him handle the ball more. It’s clear he’s working in his ball skills, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
No. 23 Francis Okoro, 6’9 4-star post (Normal, IL)
Congrats to Normal West C Francis Okoro (@chibestfrank88) on landing an offer from University of Missouri. #Mizzou #AFAthlete pic.twitter.com/CRqNBSfWnL— BN Athlete Factory (@bnafactory) June 19, 2017
Okoro plays for the Bradley Beal Elite (formerly the St. Louis Eagles) and is the top player in Illinois for 2019. He’s a bruising, athletic forward with a developing post game and will be a high priority target for Brad Underwood and team at Illinois. He grew up in the heart of Illinois, which will likely make it difficult for Mizzou if the Tigers decide to jump heavily into the mix. I think they like their chances with a few other players in the post, so ultimately I’d consider Okoro a long shot.
As you can see, Okoro has some hitches to his game, but he’s fairly new to basketball. As he matures and plays more, he could be a dominant college player.
No. 32 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6’9 4-star CF (Mission, KS)
Just about everyone thinks Robinson-Earl, the son of two Kansas alumni, is going to be Kansas’ player to lose. His father, Lester Earl, played there under Roy Williams, and KU has been recruiting him for a while. However, if there’s one school that could pluck Robinson-Earl from Kansas, it might actually be Missouri.
JRE is close friends with Jontay Porter, and his family is apparently close with the Porters. Plus, Mizzou has already had Jeremiah on campus for an unofficial visit. It should probably be considered a long shot because of all the Kansas ties, but it sounds like JRE is open and looking around. He would be a huge pickup for Missouri.
JRE is more of a natural post player, but his skill level and agility is good enough that he would have no problem projecting to a wing.
No. 54 Zach Harvey, 6’4 4-star wing (Topeka, KS)
Harvey is a relatively new name but is one of the top players contacted by Missouri in this contact period. Harvey is rising up the charts, but like Robinson-Earl, most think the in-state Jayhawks are by far the team to beat. I won’t spend a whole lot of time and energy on Harvey until I can see that Missouri becomes a real player.
No. 98 Mario McKinney, 6’2 4-star CG (St. Louis)
Blessed to Receive a Re-Offer from Mizzou pic.twitter.com/9f4PIfdf8w— Mario McKinney Jr. (@Boog341) June 19, 2017
McKinney is the cousin of Jimmy McKinney, who you’ll probably remember played for the Tigers under Quin Snyder. Mario is a smooth left-handed guard for Vashon who has primary played off the ball despite being of optimal size for a point guard. He can still improve quite a bit with his handle, and if he can prove he’s a reliable point guard, you could seem him start to run up the rankings a bit.
There are some similarities with his cousin in that they’re both good but not great athletes. But Mario projects to be a very good four-year player, just like his cousin.
If the Tigers want to lock McKinney up, they could probably do so in short order, though they’d better decide quickly — McKinney’s stock is going up with a recent offer from Xavier, plus interest from Illinois, Kansas State and others.
No. 131 EJ Liddell, 6’7 4-star post (Belleville, IL)
There seem to be a lot of people in and around the basketball scene in St. Louis who believe Liddell should be much higher than 131st. Liddell played up with the U17’s on Bradley Beal Elite this summer and more than held his own. He reminds me a bit of Tyler Cook in that he might be a bit on the shorter side for an elite post player, but his lower body strength is exceptional. I’m not sure he’s as explosive as Cook is, but his offensive game — particularly his ability to face up from the mid-to-high post — is better.
The battle for Liddell is going to be heated, especially between Missouri and Illinois with Iowa, Kansas State and DePaul lurking.
This probably will come down to Mizzou and Illinois. In terms of area recruits, Illinois has Mark Smith, while Mizzou has Jeremiah Tilmon and now Javon Pickett. It should be an intriguing battle to watch.
Terrence Hargrove Jr., 6’6 UR Wing (East St. Louis)
Hargrove doesn’t have a lot of national acclaim because he hasn’t gotten fully engulfed in the AAU circuit, but make no mistake: he’s a big time player. I figure Mizzou will be a factor in his recruitment, but word around town is he and his father seem pretty focused on KU if the Jayhawks offer. He’s already been to Lawrence on an unofficial visit. At this stage, I’d expect the Tigers to check in, but if KU offers I think it’s a done deal.
Roman Wilson, 6’10 UR Post (Park Hill, MO)
Wilson is actually ranked No. 90 by Rivals, so he’s not completely off the radar. Wilson has already been in contact with Missouri coaches and boasts offers from Wichita State, Kansas State and Tulsa with more coming down the pike soon.
He’s a bit of a work in progress offensively, but you can’t teach the kind of athleticism he has with his size. He’s another kid who should be easy to keep in state if the Tigers make a concerted effort early and stay on him.
The national names
#9 James Wiseman, 6’10 5-star post (Nashville, TN)
I’ll probably keep Wiseman on this list until he isn’t. We still don’t have confirmation on if he is moving to St. Louis or not, and it’s likely a necessary step for Missouri to have any chance at the top-10, 5-star post.
Wiseman recently switched from the Bradley Beal Elite to Team Penny in Memphis, so it would seem like a longer shot that he ends up in STL. He’s an exceptional talent who is nearly unbeatable around the rim and is a likely one-and-done.
Here’s Wiseman, facing up against the BBE with EJ Liddell (No. 12) and Francis Okoro (No. 23) in gray.
Mizzou 2018 target Alex Lomax (#2) plays for Team Penny, as well as Jericole Hellems and Karrington Davis on BBE. #10 for BBE is Darius Garland — he’s really, really, really, really good.
No. 48 Nobal Days, 6’9 4-star post (Racine, WI)
Days is a relatively new name to the list, but he was one of the first players contacted by Missouri coaches early in the contact period. Wisconsin (and Marquette, for that matter) are really good at keeping the good players in state. So up front it would seem like a long shot to lure him out of state. Top-50 post players are always in high demand, so we’ll watch Days closely to see how much Mizzou might be able to get into the mix. I wouldn’t expect much from it.
No. 84 Romeo Weems, 6’6 4-star wing, New Haven, MI)
There seems to be a disparity for Weems’ ranking. He’s 84th in the Composite, but 247 has him rated 26th, Rivals has him 20th, and ESPN ranks him 19th. So how in the world is he No. 84 when 3 of the sites don’t even add up to 84? Who knows. But he’s clearly a high 4-star or low 5-star level player.
This is one of those players you hope Cornell Mann can work some Michigan magic on to get him to consider Mizzou.
No. 152 Mark “Rockett” Watts Jr., 6’2 3-star PG (Detroit, MI)
Another Michigan kid, Watts is a fast-rising PG prospect with whom I’d expect the Tigers to stay in the mix for quite a while. Watts has already been offered by Michigan, Michigan State, Xavier, Alabama, Marquette and others, so the competition is thick. And anytime a Michigan kid has offers from both MSU and Michigan, you have to like the in-state schools’ chances.
At this point, the coaches have a fair idea of what their roster will look like entering the 2019 season, so they also have a good idea of the players to target to flesh out the rest of the roster.
|Rocket Watts||Marcedus Leech||Zach Harvey||Jeremiah Robinson-Earl||James Wiseman|
|Mario McKinney||Romeo Weems||Francis Okoro|
|Terrence Hargrove Jr||Nobal Days|
12 names so far, but you can see there appears to be an early lean towards post players. That’s usually because you have to get on good post players early, and guards are usually easier to find and recruit, especially as players mature and their bodies fill out.
I expect Missouri to add to this list quite a bit over the next few months.
Looking ahead, the 2019 recruiting class would be freshmen on the same roster where the current freshman class are juniors, and Kim Anderson’s last recruiting class would be seniors. They would essentially fill the void of guys like Terrence Phillips and Kevin Puryear. If nobody leaves, and Missouri fills its remaining two 2018 scholarships, the leaves them with four to fill in 2019.
I’d expect a little more turnover before then, particularly if Jontay Porter leaves early, or possibly Jeremiah Tilmon as well.
Missouri could do really well by staying close to home for a 2019 class. Leech, McKinney, Liddell and Wilson would provide them depth and talent and would be an outstanding class.
I expect they’ll remain in the mix for a while with Weems and Robinson-Earl, though I expect the 2019 class to be the first time we might see Cornell Mann’s Michigan ties start to pay off a little bit.