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Mario McKinney Jr. commits to Missouri

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The Vashon combo guard is the the Tigers first pledge in 2019.

mario McKinney commitment instagram.com

There was a time in early spring of this year where we thought we might need to write this article. A rumor swirled: Mario McKinney Jr., a four-star combo guard from Vashon High School in St. Louis, was on the cusp of committing to Missouri, becoming the first pledge in the Tigers’ 2019 class.

Just as quickly as they emerged the whispers went silent, and McKinney remained on the market.

That all came to an end today when McKinney committed to MU coach Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri Tigers.

recruiting basketball

In some ways, the news isn’t all that surprising. McKinney, a top-75 recruit nationally entering the spring, was the fifth prospect in the Class of 2019 to pick up a Missouri offer, and he had already taken multiple unofficial visits to Columbia. Last fall, Martin and assistant coach Chris Hollender beat a path to Vashon for open gyms. During the winter, they settled into courtside seats as a visible presence at multiple games.

So it made sense when spring arrived that a commitment seemed likely if not imminent. Then the grassroots season changed the trajectory.

McKinney struggled early to adapt to an ever-changing role on his grassroots team, Bradley Beal Elite (formerly the St. Louis Eagles). Meanwhile, Missouri vetted its options, including a pair of Michigan prospects in Rocket Watts and Harlond Beverly. By late August, Mizzou appeared to be a dark horse for Watts, a top-40 prospect and bona fide bucket-getter out of Detroit. For his part, McKinney set a visit to Kansas State and only alluded to a potential visit to Columbia “sometime in October.”

That all changed in late August.

McKinney joined several younger Vashon teammates on a trip to Columbia, which included highly-coveted wing Cam’Ron Fletcher, for an individual elite camp being run by Mizzou’s staff. On that trip, the Tigers lined up an official visit for Sept. 8 and creating a joint visit with combo forward E.J. Liddell, a top-50 target, McKinney’s childhood friend and the top target on MU’s recruiting board.

The pivot also coincided as the Tigers fortunes with Watts ebbed. A source with knowledge of the situation said Missouri called off the visit, the byproduct of family matters potentially keeping Watts close to home and a potential logjam in the Tigers backcourt. (On Saturday night, Watts announced he would suit up for Michigan State.)

These behind-the-scenes machinations broke into view on Sept. 3, when word filtered out that McKinney nixed his visit to K-State and would come to Columbia instead.

When we say McKinney is electric, he’s electric. Watch:

McKinney’s commitment is only going to be good news in the Tigers continued pursuit of E.J. Liddell.

Liddell is coming off an official visit to Illinois, his last trip after recently canceling trips to Wisconsin and Kansas State, but still has some mulling to do. Securing a commitment from McKinney puts a big foot forward for the Tigers. The roster is already stocked with faces familiar to Liddell. Mark Smith and Torrence Watson played host during his official visit to Columbia, while Metro East natives Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett are on the roster as well.

2019-2020 Roster Breakdown

Point Guard Combo Guard Wings Others Stretch Post Post
Point Guard Combo Guard Wings Others Stretch Post Post
Dru Smith Mark Smith Javon Pickett K.J Santos Mitchell Smith Reed Nikko
Xavier Pinson Mario McKinney Torrence Watson Jeremiah Timon
Christian Guess

We’ll have much more coverage shortly with an initial scout from Matt, and a roster impact from me, so stay tuned.