Anyone closely tracking Josh Christopher’s recruitment over the winter witnessed Missouri fade in the race for the five-star wing.
On Monday, Christopher made it official by committing to Arizona State, a decision that closes a sobering 2020 cycle that started with optimism. The Tigers prioritized Christopher, Cam’Ron Fletcher and Caleb Love, prospects whose athleticism and scoring punch they could slot into a veteran backcourt. Instead, none are headed to Columbia.
Of the three prospects, the odds for landing Christopher rested on family ties. (His cousin is MU’s strength-and-conditioning guru) The bond was fruitful enough to score the Tigers an official visit in October 2018 and spot in the guard’s final pool of suitors last July. Luring the California native to MU, though, quickly became an uphill climb.
First, Arizona State landed his older brother, Caleb, a three-star prospect, in March 2019. With the move, the Sun Devils offered Josh the chance for a reunion without traveling two time zones. Aside from an official visit to Tempe, Josh also made several unofficial trips to take in ASU.
Hometown UCLA, which is a 20-minute commute away, had two of Christopher’s closest friends — Shareef O’Neal and Daishen Nix — in the fold. While O’Neal has since transferred to LSU, Nix is slated to join the Bruins next season. Finally, late last March, Juwan Howard made Christopher one of his top priorities after taking the helm at Michigan, selling him on playing in an uptempo and NBA-inspired system.
By last August, Christopher set official visits, but a firm date for a return trip to Columbia wasn’t pinned down. In the end, it never happened. As the regular season unfolded, Michigan and Arizona State gained traction, while MU and UCLA lost ground. And 10 days ago, Christopher added hometown USC to his group of finalists.
In picking Arizona State, Christopher also defied the conventional wisdom of recruiting analysts, who pegged him as a Michigan lean. Instead, he’s heading to the desert.
As for Mizzou, its dogged pursuit of Bowling Green graduate transfer Justin Turner was evidence enough that the Tigers grasped where they stood in the race for Christopher’s services. The fact Turner opted to return to the Falcons, who will be contenders in the Mid-American Conference next season, leaves a deeper welt.
The Tigers still have two scholarships left to fill for the upcoming season, but where that search goes is unclear. Mizzou made the final cut for point guard David DeJulius, who announced his departure from Michigan last week, and is set to pick a new landing spot Wednesday. The Tigers kicked the tires on JUCO guard RayQuawndis Mitchell, but they never extended an offer. Mitchell committed to UIC on Monday afternoon.