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Editorial Bored: The 2019 Freshmen Hoopers

The 2019 basketball class wasn’t as heralded as its predecessor, but there’s a lot of promise in the three youngsters.

City Of Palms Classic Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Welcome to Editorial Bored, a weekly Rock M Nation roundtable getting you through the desert of summer by looking ahead to the coming year in Mizzou Sports.

Mario McKinney may be the most “exciting” member of this year’s frosh, simply because we’ve seen the most of him. How soon will the Mizzou legacy be able to translate his exciting style of play to Mizzou Arena?

Sam Snelling, Site Manager: McKinney is certainly an intriguing prospect because of his athleticism. I don’t think Cuonzo Martin and staff will be able to keep him off the floor completely because he’ll make things happen. Not all of those things will be good, but when you have the explosiveness McKinney does, the ball tends to find you a lot and he can impact play in so many ways. In the short term I think he’s a defense and energy guy, but if he can work on his handle, I’m hopeful McKinney can be a long term cog in restoring the roar at Mizzou Arena. Plus, I also look forward to a large number of post players who insusceptibly get dunked on for not going after a rebound hard enough.

Matt Harris, Basketball Editor: When McKinney committed, I forecasted his freshman campaign as a season where he’d bide his time. I’d still need good cause to take Mark Smith off the floor, and I’m not sure what minutes will be open at lead guard. Yet McKinney knows about growing into a larger role; he went through a similar progression at Vashon. Wolverines coach Tony Irons could use his athleticism and defensive tenacity as a catalyst off the bench. It’s easy to see him carving out a similar niche early on: poking the ball free, winning 50-50 rebounds in space and attacking in transition. Undoubtedly, there’s some skill development that has to take place, but as coach Cuonzo Martin said, McKinney is the type of talent who can simply go make a play.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JAN 19 Spalding Hoophall Classic Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: McKinney represents the potential to be a thorn in SEC opponents’ sides for years to come. He’s the type of quick, shifty guard opposing fans love to hate, a guy who will be a pest on defense and throw down a thunderous dunk on the other end. I’m very much looking forward to the, “Who the hell is Mario McKinney?” tweets we’ll be experiencing over the next few years.

Hopefully, though, we won’t be too focused on McKinney until the 2020-2021 season. Mizzou is currently pretty set at the off-guard position, and any big-time minutes for McKinney would mean a potential injury to Mark Smith or lack of production from Pickett or Watson. That’s not to say we won’t see flashes of McKinney’s ability — he’s pesky enough to give us some memorable highlights early on. You just hope he’s afforded the time to polish his game while providing his more experienced teammates with some much-needed rest.

The recruitment of Tray Jackson was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but Mizzou eventually landed one of their top targets in the class. What’s the ceiling for the Michigan lefty in this program?

Sam Snelling: The ceiling is Tray figures out how to play hard with consistency and ends up leaving the program after a couple years. He’s got the talent to be a NBA player with his mobility, size and shooting ability... if he finds consistency. But that’s the reason why he was towards the bottom of the top 100 instead of the top. I think it’s going to take Jackson a little longer to be the impact player Mizzou fans think he can be, but I do think he can become an elite player in short order (but probably more likely as a sophomore).

Matt Harris: The Michigan native has all the tools to thrive as a stretch forward in today’s game. I don’t know if he’ll ever evolve into a wing — his handle might need some tightening — but he can post-up, space to the corner as spot-up threat, pick-and-pop, hang out in the dunker spot and run the floor. He faces two tests, though. First, can he become a consistent shooter? In EYBL action, Jackson connected on just 30.8 percent of 3-point attempts.

Josh Matejka: The ceiling for Tray is out of this world. As a stretch-four with a decent looking jumper and bunnies around the rim, the sky is the limit. However, it’s probably wise to hold off on those sort of expectations for at least another year. Jackson has the athleticism to play a part in this year’s team, but there are still some consistency questions that need to be answered. If we’ve learned anything about Cuonzo Martin in two years, it’s that he really values players who can come in and play a tight game that contributes on both ends — even if those players are unspectacular. Tray, like Mario, has a lot flash to his game, but he’ll have to prove he can be reliable (shooting the ball, handling the ball, playing smart defense) before we can really turn our eyes to the future.

Kobe Brown was a late addition to the 2019 class, but the early reports suggest he could be one of the youngest contributors on this year’s team. What does Brown immediately offer that the other two freshmen don’t?

Sam Snelling: Skill. Brown isn’t an explosive athlete, but he’s very skilled and has a college-ready body. I also like Brown’s ability to shoot. Even though he didn’t hit at a high percentage in AAU and was more of a high volume guy in high school, he’s got a good touch. To me, this ends up being a little like Pickett last year. Brown is just a little more ready to contribute, so I think he does.

Matt Harris:

Josh Matejka: The one obvious thing Brown brings is beef. Brown stands just an inch shorter than Tray Jackson, but is also listed at 220 pounds, giving him a college-ready body that could compensate for any athletic deficiencies he might encounter in the SEC. Given his propensity to play on the outside, Brown should create some size mismatches with smaller guards whom he can body to the rim and — potentially — use his skill level to create crafty scoring chances around the hoop.

However, Brown also offers a very valuable trait that neither Jackson or McKinney currently boast — a polished game, at least for a freshman. Our projections of the former two are mostly built on their freakish athleticism and potential. Brown, on the other hand, offers us clear cut expectations on what he’ll bring to the table. He is (and, please, don’t take this too literally) this year’s Javon Pickett to the more “celebrated” talents in Torrence Watson and Xavier Pinson. With a nose for the bucket, a guard mentality and a frame that’s ready for SEC physicality, Brown could carve himself out a decent chunk of minutes provided he’s able to keep up with Martin’s demands on defense.