Welcome to Editorial Bored, a Rock M Nation roundtable getting you through the desert of summer by looking ahead to the coming year in Mizzou Sports.
Doesn’t it seem strange to conceptualize the idea of the year 2022? While in fact we are only about 18 months away from turning the calendar past 2021, it feels like the past 3 months of life have contained an eternity.
But this week offered a sharp reminder that time marches onward, as the 2022 college basketball recruiting cycle officially kicked off. Coaches are now officially permitted to formalize offers and actively recruit rising juniors to be a part of their programs.
And while the subject of hoops recruiting has been a sore subject for Mizzou fans lately, there could be reason for hope. The 2021 class, which will look to replace at least five (and likely six) scholarships, has already added a high-ceiling guard in Anton Brookshire, and has momentum with several other highly-thought-of prospects from the Midwest. Of course, recruiting doesn’t equate to on-court success in a vacuum, but it’s easy to see how a successful 2020-2021 season and a celebrated 2021 recruiting cycle could spell a return to form for Missouri basketball in the near future.
So as the arduous process of digging for information and scouting recruits begins, we’re here to give y’all the lowdown on our earliest impressions of the 2022 basketball recruits. Who is Missouri after? What positions are they targeting? What do we still not know? You can find all of our answers in this week’s Editorial Bored.
The 2022 recruiting cycle kicked off in earnest this week, with Mizzou extending several offers to rising juniors. What are your early impressions of how the class is positioning itself?
Sam Snelling, Site Manager: I think it’s important to keep in mind first and foremost this recruiting period is an unusual one because there is no live period. Missouri’s coaches haven’t been able to watch anyone live for months. That being said, they’re doing a nice job of being aggressive with contact on some really impressive guys.
In particular, I’m pleased with how aggressive they’re being with guys in the region. 2022 is a class where they can really step it up locally and build upon some more recent success in and around the state. For Missouri, that’s a common refrain. But there is more depth in this class than in previous years, so there might even be a reason for optimism. That’s a pretty foreign feeling for Mizzou Basketball fans these days.
Matt Harris, Basketball Editor: Depth, and lots of it. We’ll get to names in a minute, but it’s a relief to see diverse options in close proximity to Columbia. The 2021 cycle only offered up four regional recruits — Jordan Nesbitt, Jaden Jones, Tamar Bates and Anton Brookshire — of note. While a segment of the fanbase continues to grumble, MU didn’t extend offers Nesbitt or Jones, who are teammates at St. Louis Christian Academy. Instead, Martin and Co. reeled in Brookshire and are trying to stay in the hunt in with Bates, who is the No. 85 prospect in 247 Sports’ composite index.
To offset a smaller pool of local talent, the staff has tried to reach into the upper midwest, especially Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Maybe that pays off in the form of combo guard Kobe Bufkin, a consensus top-100 recruit, or a high-upside stretch forward like David Joplin. Still, MU faces the chore of filling an exceptionally large class in a year when its regional pipeline isn’t as productive.
Fortunately, that’s not the case in 2022.
This week, reports trickled out that the staff touched base with 18 prospects. Of that group, seven are Show-Me State natives, while two others reside just over the state line in the Kansas City area. Meanwhile, 10 recruits contacted by Mizzou suit up for MoKan Elite, Brad Beal Elite or KC Run GMC on the grassroots circuit. Think of it this way, too: it might be more efficient for MU to set up Zoom calls in the future with the seven MoKan players it spoke to this week.
While they didn’t send out a slew of offers, Martin and his assistants aren’t short of options. Projecting roster turnover is a fool’s errand, but they won’t have to survey the horizon to find high-quality options to fill likely needs at wing, combo forward and post. Ideally, they won’t have to travel more than two hours from Mizzou Arena to pull that off.
Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: After a handful of key misses on local prospects over the past few years, Cuonzo Martin is going to get another chance at cleaning up in-state. He’s already extended an offer to Tarris Reed (Chaminade) and initiated contact with Larry Hughes II (CBC) and Taj Manning (Grandview) and a handful of other locals. Add an offer to Aidan Shaw (Stillwell, KS) and the staff looks primed to put the full-court press on local talent in 2022.
The class of 2022 may not have any household names yet, so which players should Mizzou fans get familiar with over the next few months?
Matt Harris: Three names should already be familiar: Bishop Miege wing Mark Mitchell, Blue Valley wing Aidan Shaw, and Chaminade combo forward Tarris Reed Jr. Each is a top-75 talent, lives in a border metro area and has already been on campus for an unofficial visit. While Mitchell’s already a five-star talent, Shaw and Reed, who are teammates on MoKan Elite, have the potential to play their way up the rankings. How high they climb might impact the Tigers’ odds at landing them, and those recruitments should be marathons.
But as mentioned earlier, there’s an enough depth behind Mitchell, Shaw and Reed. For example, Kansas City native Jaylon McDaniel, who is now Sunrise Christian Academy, is an under-the-radar option at combo forward. Pegged as a likely top-150 player, injuries derailed him the past couple of seasons and led him to reclassify out of the 2021 class. But he’s healthy now, runs the floor hard, active in the short corner and can attack off the bounce from the elbow. With a little work on his perimeter game, McDaniel would fit nicely into MU’s offense.
Meanwhile, MU’s staff called the entire CBC backcourt — point guard Rob Martin, combo guard Larry Hughes Jr. and wing Mikhail Abdul-Hamid — early this week. And yes, Hughes, a top-150 talent, is the son of the SLU legend.
Josh Matejka: Mark Mitchell is this cycle’s five-star wish upon a star, and it’s going to be hard to pry him away from the blue bloods. Duke is actively recruiting him (no offer as of yet), and that school to the west has extended their offer already. However, all may not be lost for the Tigers, as Mitchell has already visited campus once and is close enough to home that Martin can prioritize him without too much strain on his part.
Outside of the local names, Missouri is in early on small forwards Price Aligbe (Minneapolis, MN) and Julian Phillips (Blythewood, SC), both Top 75 talents who would fill a position of need after Javon Pickett and Torrence Watson are out the door. We know Martin has had success in Minnesota before (though you could qualify “success” in the case of Tray Jackson), but it’s hard to see how these are more than early fliers. However, what we know about Martin suggests he doesn’t waste his time on players who won’t at least consider Mizzou, so those are names to keep on the backburner. As mentioned above, it looks likely that the 2022 class will be local-heavy, and Matt aptly ran down those names, so I’ll save my breath.
Sam Snelling: I moved my piece below both Matt and Josh’s comments since they covered most of the bigger names we know of so far, and while I think it’s clear Martin is going to doggedly pursue Mitchell, Shaw and Reed, it’s always important to have some backup plans, as Mitchell is already a 5-star and the other two could potentially finish in the top 50, where the recruiting waters get much deeper.
The 2022 class has a lot of really intriguing depth, however. It’s s shaping into a class where I think you could go a few different directions and be really happy with how it works out, even missing on the top guys. In fact, you wouldn’t have to recruit that far out of the MoKan Elite team to build a nice class. Here are a few names I’ll be keeping my eye on:
- Jalen Quinn, a 6’3 combo guard from Tuscola, Illinois. Quinn has already been to Missouri for an unofficial visit last winter and hasn’t fully blown the lid off his recruitment. But he has good size and athleticism, and would fit a lot of what Missouri has traditionally recruited towards.
- Julian Norris, a 6’3 combo guard from Evansville, IN. Good size and quickness, he’s already in the top 150 but hasn’t blown up with offers. Missouri has been in early.
- Jeremiah Talton, a 6’6’ wing from Quincy, IL (MoKan). With Tilmon graduating this year Missouri needs another Jeremiah T, right? Talton has good size on the wing and shoots the ball well. He’s still developing, but has a really high ceiling and is a crafty athlete.
- Jasen Green, a 6’6 wing from Omaha, NE (MoKan). Green already has early offers from K-State and Nebraska. He’s the high school teammate of 5-star 2021 guard Hunter Sallis, so he should get plenty of exposure.
- Taj Manning, a 6’7 combo forward from Kansas City (MoKan). Manning is still young and developing, but already has good size and moves well for a guy playing minutes around the perimeter.
Of course, nothing gets done in 2022 before the 2021 class wraps up. What’s the biggest way this upcoming class could impact the one coming after?
Sam Snelling: We should know a lot more about the plans for 2022 after next spring. The next year will be developing relationships and hopefully being better on the court to build some momentum. But I’d expect Mizzou to add 3-4 guys in the 2021 class, and then what happens with the transfer market after next season?
Right now, there are nine spots available for the 2022-23 roster, but only four of those are freed up by Seniors graduating from the 2021-22 roster (Watson, Pickett, Pinson, Chang). Pinson tested the NBA waters this past season so the potential exists for him to bounce after next year.
Martin has nearly found the balance he wants, so regardless of what happens in 2021 I think you’re looking at a minimum of a three man class in 2022. Overall I’m not sure the class is all that impacted by 2021 because the top targets are usually about getting the higher level talent to the roster regardless of class. It’ll only change if they miss on the top guys and have to pivot to focus more on need.
Matt Harris: How involved does MU want to be in the transfer market?
To me, an ideal class looks like this: Bates, Brookshire, Joplin and DeSmet’s Yaya Keita. That quartet plugs gaps at combo guard, along with shoring up depth at combo forward and in the post. However, you still have at least one vacancy left, and possibly another if Xavier Pinson pursues professional avenues. Bringing in six freshmen isn’t ideal — or feasible — for balancing classes in the long term or for the near-term product.
So, how much work will MU want to do in the the spring period? That might mean grabbing a grad-transfer point guard. Perhaps you snap up a wing who is looking for a reset after their freshman season. And then there’s always the wares available at the JUCO level. If MU added a graduate transfer and a rising sophomore, the program will have addressed needs and achieved some roster smoothing.
Regardless of what happens in 2021, the Tigers have already identified their priority targets for 2022 in Shaw and Reed. As for the rest of that class, fluid might be the best adjective. If the NCAA signs off on live periods in August and September, it might help MU’s staff decide which prospects should be among the next batch of offers.
Josh Matejka: A few days ago, I would’ve said it depends on how heavily the staff invests in getting impact players at the point and post positions. And while that’s still true to a degree, some recent news on the transfer front has me thinking differently.
Ole Miss sophomore Blake Hinson has entered the transfer portal, sources told ESPN. Averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds last season.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) June 16, 2020
Now, this obviously doesn’t change the overall goals of the 2021 class, but the potential addition of Blake Hinson — who was considered a heavy Missouri lean before choosing Ole Miss due to playing time concerns — adds the wrinkle of an immediate impact player. With that in mind, there’s probably a little less pressure to add an impact post player, as Hinson is a capable combo forward who could mitigate some of Missouri’s size concerns.
What hasn’t changed, then, is guard depth. Mizzou will likely lose the Smiths, Drew Buggs and Xavier Pinson next offseason, so the addition of some impact guards will be critical. Anton Brookshire is already on board and the Tigers have their sights set on quite a few more highly-ranked players. If the staff can restock the cupboard in the front court this cycle, then 2022 may lean more heavily in the wing and forward department.