When Blake Harris was stealing the ball and going in for a dunk in the Braggin’ Rights game, the farthest thing from my mind was news that he’d be transferring less than two weeks later.
At the time I started thinking, maybe this is gonna work out after all.
I’d been skeptical on Harris’ recruitment and signing from the get go. He clearly followed Michael Porter Jr. from Washington, had no prior relationship with Cuonzo Martin, and attended a different school each year of high school (one school he went to for two years, but not in back-to-back years). What would keep Harris around when Porter left for the NBA?
It wasn’t that he didn’t entice you athletically. Harris is an outstanding athlete and a fantastic passer. But he needed to be unleashed, and that sort of goes against Cuonzo Martin’s nature, especially with young point guards. So the match was an arranged marriage of sorts. The Porters had a connection to a talented player, Martin knew he needed to upgrade the roster, and they each took a chance.
It didn’t work out. :(
Cuonzo Martin is a tough guy. He’s demanding in practice and approaches the game of basketball with an edge. His style is an effective one, but it’s also not for everyone. It clearly wasn’t for C.J. Roberts or Harris.
So the herd has been thinned again. Missouri is down to nine available scholarship players and not a lot of depth at point guard.
So the Tigers need a point guard?
We already knew the Tigers were likely looking for a PG this offseason. With the departure of C.J. Roberts and less than stellar play from the other options at point, the need was there. Now the search is going to go into overdrive.
Looking at the balance of the classes next season, taking a JUCO guard or a grad transfer certainly makes a lot of sense.
I know the clamoring from all sides is going to be for Missouri to go hard after Courtney Ramey, and it makes sense in a lot of ways. Ramey is a big, aggressive point guard who defends and rebounds, and he’s in state. In almost every way he’s the perfect fit for Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers.
Yet, as Matt Harris and myself have stated multiple times, the Ramey-to-Mizzou possibility seems to be a very long shot. Harris’ transfer and Ramey’s recruitment are unrelated events.
I think Texas and Villanova have to feel like they’re in great position for Ramey. If I’m Cuonzo Martin, I’d still be going hard after him, but I might see if I could get in on the Tyger Campbell sweepstakes as well.
Campbell is a small non-scoring PG who leads LaLumiere Prep and has an existing relationship with Jeremiah Tilmon. However, there are a lot of pre-established relationships with Campbell, and it would be tough to land him.
Not saying someone couldn’t emerge but right now, after Campbell, the pickings are slim.
One JUCO name to keep an eye on is Trent Williams. Word is Cornell Mann has been tracking the 6’3 point guard from Texas. He’s got a bit of a loose handle, but he’s a ‘WOW’ athlete who could be a good fit with his size and athleticism.
Next year and beyond
The holes in the roster from the Kim Anderson era are just as evident as we’d initially feared before the MPJ hysteria. Mizzou losing so many players to transfer over the years has left the roster depleted of talent, and you end up taking risks on guys who aren’t a great fit for one reason or another.
They’ve lost Wes Clark, Shane Rector, Tramaine Isabell, Roberts and now Harris from the guard position over the last several years. We hoped the initial influx of talent would boost a guy like Terrence Phillips, but it’s almost done the opposite. Terrence has virtually disappeared aside from a couple moments this year.
Overall, the guard position has proven to be a bit of a weakness, and while the insertion of Kassius Robertson has buoyed the position, it’s temporary.
Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter likely coming back next year, along with Kevin Puryear and hopefully both Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith, plus an influx of three wing players in the 2018 recruiting class. The Tigers have solidified their forward depth across three positions, but somebody has to bring the ball up.
Jordan Geist and Phillips have done enough to remain in the conversation, but I think it’s a stretch to say they’ve solidified the position.
The Tigers need — NEED — to solidify the point guard position with the next couple recruiting classes, and the prospects in 2019 are just so-so. The staff seems to really like Mario McKinney who is a bit more of a combo-guard and not a lead guy. They’ve offered D.J. Carton (a likely B1G landing), Rocket Watts (will be hard to pull from Michigan), and Yuri Collins (whose high-major interest right now is limited). Somehow, the Tigers will have to find ball handlers.
Missouri’s biggest flaw just got bigger.