I just feel like we’ve seen this movie before.
A new coach enters, opens doors that were previously closed in recruiting, and starts to deliver on the promise of enhanced recruiting. Well, the reason it feels so familiar is because you have seen this movie before. You just saw it in a different sport, with a different coach in Cuonzo Martin.
For whatever reason, Kim Anderson and Barry Odom (to a somewhat lesser extent), couldn’t quite recruit the St. Louis metro area as much as Mizzou fans would’ve liked. Whether that was because of personality or the quality of teams there, it always felt like the best athletes of the area in football and basketball seemed to always find homes in places other than Missouri.
Enter Cuonzo Martin.
Immediately after his hire, Missouri Basketball began to command attention from high major players from the area that simply weren’t going to sign to Missouri with the previous regime. I think of guys like Mark Smith, who when he left Illinois for Missouri, cited the relationship he had with Cuonzo as a large factor in why he did so. Jeremiah Tilmon is another player who felt like an unattainable prospect with Anderson as the coach. Same goes for Torrence Watson. All of those guys, despite how some Missouri fans may feel about them now, were highly ranked local guys who could’ve easily gone somewhere else.
As time has gone on, there have been a few key misses in the area. One wonders how EJ Liddell or Cam Fletcher would’ve looked in black and gold. However, one thing that cannot be disputed is that the arrival of Martin made Missouri far more competitive in those recruitments than they would’ve been with Anderson.
I turn my attention to Eli Drinkwitz, where most have seen that he too is beginning to make the major recruits in the St. Louis metro area take notice. He has begun to stack up elite talent from the area with first year commitments like Travion Ford, Tyler Macon and Dominic Lovett. He also hasn’t been afraid to use the transfer portal to bring local guys back into the fold. Mookie Cooper, who didn’t even have Missouri in his final five schools coming out of high school, is coming to Columbia after a relatively quick trip to the transfer portal. It’s also likely that Missouri is in the mix for Ayodele Adeoye, a Texas transfer from St. Louis. This is all a nice way of saying that the floor of Missouri recruiting in St. Louis has been raised a considerable amount. Guys who maybe wouldn’t have considered Mizzou, are now, and that is directly attributable to the man leading that program in Drinkwitz.
It’s important to note that neither of these men will convince every player in the area to stay home. Missouri will always struggle with bluebloods coming into their territory to poach elite talent. Sometimes the chance to get coached by John Calipari or Nick Saban is too much to pass down. But what Missouri can’t and isn’t doing anymore is allowing itself to be basically irrelevant in the recruiting process. There isn’t really a prospect that feels unattainable in the way that it did before the arrivals of Martin and Drinkwitz. Both coaches have made it abundantly clear to the elite players in the area that not only can you come to Mizzou and succeed, but Mizzou wants you here.
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