When Missouri-target Tray Jackson committed to Minnesota in September, Cuonzo Martin and his staff put all their efforts into recruiting top-50 combo forward E.J. Liddell out of Belleville (Ill.) West. Mario McKinney Jr.’s commitment to the Tigers a week ago gave them a boost in their plans for recruiting the Illinois Mr. Basketball.
On Monday, Liddell threw a wrench into those plans — and broke the hearts of Missouri fans everywhere — when he announced his commitment to Ohio State.
BREAKING | Belleville (Ill.) West combo forward E.J. Liddell commits to Ohio State, picking the Buckeyes over #Mizzou and Illinois.— Matt Harris (@MattJHarris85) October 1, 2018
The video commitment, which he played to a group of reporters, friends and family:
Liddell was at the top of Missouri’s recruiting board, a natural replacement for the soon-to-be-NBA-bound Jontay Porter. His 6 foot, 7 inch, 220 pound frame would have been a perfect fit down low in the Tigers’ system. His 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the state-champion Maroons made him as enticing a prospect as anyone that came across Martin’s board.
But, Liddell decided to go a different route, and he will head to Columbus to join head coach Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes.
So, where does Missouri go from here?
Matt will take a deeper look later, but the main point is this: there is no clear-cut answer.
Again, Martin had a lot riding on securing Liddell’s commitment, and there are not a lot of other options now that Liddell chose to go elsewhere. The Tigers can make a last-minute push for some other recruits or take a look at the transfer-wire, but even then, it will be hard to fill what would have been Liddell’s spot in the 2019 class.
Martin might have a few tricks up his sleeve, and he will also add the services of transfers Mark and Dru Smith next season to soften some of the blow. Missing out on Liddell, though, almost ensures that Missouri’s rebuilding plan will take a little more time to develop.