We’ve been talking about this positionless basketball for years. Quite literally.
However, positionless basketball has long relied upon one position in particular to be unleashed, and that’s the five spot. So naturally as the roster has progressed, the one thing sort of holding Missouri back from the full conversion was the presence of the true center, Jeremiah Tilmon, on the roster. When you can land a talent like Tilmon, you play him, and you give him opportunities on the block. For the Tigers, it mostly paid off... they don’t play in the NCAA tournament last year without Jeremiah Tilmon.
But the truth is, Missouri was one of the teams who played through the post more than just about everyone in the SEC last season. So as Tilmon departed, naturally we thought, “you gotta find somebody to fill in at the 5-spot” and then Cuonzo went out and signed Ronnie DeGray III. Decidedly NOT a center.
DeGray is a 6’7, 220 lb combo forward who plays a lot like a bigger version of Javon Pickett. He can handle the ball a little, shoot the ball a little, he passes well, defends well, finishes around the rim, and can guard just about anyone on the court. I’m sure we’ll get a traditional Matt Harris breakdown of DeGray and his skillset in the coming days/weeks... so now we’ll focus on how he impacts the roster.
At this point Missouri has just one remaining scholarship available, having now accounted for every departure from the roster with a combination of incoming freshmen and transfers.
There’s now a Ilittle more balance in the roster with a still heavy freshman class and a loaded junior class. There’s two sophomores instead of one, and a lone senior. With one spot available this season, it means Missouri only has two available scholarships to play with for the 2022-23 season.
We know these days that nothing is certain in roster continuity, but it would appear Mizzou could probably count on only another spot opening up at most. But at this point, with so much up for grabs due to a nearly full roster flip, it’s hard to project that anyone might not be bought in because right now, they’re all bought in. Both Kobe Brown and Javon Pickett played a lot over the last few years, and Jordan Wilmore sat this past year but he had to know that was going to happen coming in. With Jeremiah Tilmon on the roster, the minutes at the five were going going to be few and far between.
What we know is DeGray was recruited to Missouri as a combo-forward-type player in the style of Kobe Brown. Both Brown and DeGray have the size to play the four, but both are accustomed to playing with the ball in their hands and making plays on the perimeter... thus the new modern combo-forward.
The roster by class:
Kind of fun in the full Junior class you’ve nearly got a player per position minus the post, and seeing the freshman class with similar look just with all five spots. The outliers being DeGray, Wilmore, and Pickett. It’s perhaps another reason why we shouldn’t fret too much about the center position. Mizzou has 8 of their 12 signees who play the wing, combo forward, or post.
And the size of the players is pretty solid as well. It’s one of the things you consider when you say “positional size” which we’ve talked about a little on the podcast. Positional size is basically having guys big enough to play there. Just looking at the positional size, at the four and five spots Mizzou has:
That’s good size. It also doesn’t include the 6’7 Sean Durugordon, or 6’5 Boogie Coleman. Going through the roster, you might want to see another guy who is a true post or another guy who is a true point guard, but Missouri has a lot of flexibility. This looks like a team who can play in a style which Cuonzo Martin has talked about for the last few years. Positionless.
I’ve made light of Martin starting a lineup comprised entirely of 6’7 guys, but this roster is going to give him 10 guys who are 6’4 or taller, with just Anton Brookshire and Amari Davis being listed at 6’0 and 6’3, respectively. So the flexibility of the lineups is certainly there.
Obviously, the concern now is production. The newness of the roster is very exciting, but it’s all very new. You have a combination of players who’ve never produced at the high major level, added to a group of players who’ve never produced at the college level, added to Javon Pickett and Kobe Brown. So while there’s still another spot available if they want to use it, the task at hand is a tall one, and that’s molding a largely unproven proven players into a competitive high major team.