Late Friday night Tamar Bates committed to Dennis Gates and Missouri. The move felt quick, because according to Bates it just made all too much sense. I’m not sure when, but well before it was publicly announced, Bates spoke with 247sports.com’s Eric Bossi in one of the more introspective and thoughtful post-commitment interviews I’ve read. He had a few comments which led me to believe he knew what he was looking for, and found it at Missouri. The rest was just a matter of the announcement:
“When I was able to watch Mizzou this year I felt that the way they played fit me,” said Bates. “The way that coach Gates wants to play fits my game. They want to play fast paced, up and down, shoot a lot of threes and getting up into guys and defending. I feel like the SEC is more of my speed and it went hand in hand with them understanding who I am.”
Recruiting rankings are one of those things where it forces fans, coaches, and players alike to build a level of expectation around what should happen. Bates was the 30th ranked player in his class. He should land at a place like Texas or Indiana, be a productive freshman, maybe become a star as a sophomore and be quickly bound for the NBA. But while some coaches are good at finding the kind of talent that fits them, too often players aren’t as good at finding the coaches that fit them.
It’s important to have a relationship there. And Bates made clear in the interview he felt supported by Gates. I don’t want to diminish that part of it, because it’s important. But style fit is equally important, if not more. Players are generally happier when they’re playing well.
I spoke about this a little with my piece on Caleb Love a few weeks back, but it applies to Tamar Bates as well. Both Love and Bates chose blue bloods. Neither were the best fit at their chosen school provided their skill sets. Both are talented open court players with good athleticism. And while Love is more of a ball dominant player, Bates is more comfortable playing off the ball. Both players are better suited to playing in a higher tempo offense, and free from an offense with clogged middles.
Love played with Armando Bacot, Bates with Trayce Jackson-Davis. Both Indiana and North Carolina played with a lot of double posts. Yesterday when I spoke about Gates’ philosophy one emphasis of his press conference answer was three point shooting. The reason you want as many shooters on the floor as possible is what that can do for the paint, which is completely open it up.
One of the games (or two rather) where this became clear is when Mizzou played Tennessee. One of the biggest, most physical defenses you can play against. And this is what Mizzou did to them:
It reached a point through most of each matchup where the Vols vaunted defense had chased Mizzou around enough that they went small. A team with multiple rugged bigs who could eat up offensive rebounds bent to Missouri’s will.
The problem was without Isiaih Mosley, and then with Tre Gomillion’s injury, the depth took a big hit. Which is why you haven’t seen Mizzou pursue multiple big men, and you heard Gates refer to players with “the right size”. The bigger key for next year was establishing high level guard depth. Then fill in around them with more skilled bigs (Kadin Shedrick, hello).
Now they’ve taken commitments from Tamar Bates, a high level recruit who hasn’t realized his full potential. And John Tonje, an experienced combo guard/wing who can do a lot of things on both ends of the court. Consistency and reliability with potential and high upside.
Bates will be fighting others for playing time, but he won’t be fighting for the ball or possessions. By all means he needs to be better offensively, but much like I said about Caleb Love, those improvements might come on their own with just a better stylistic fit. If Bates stays consistent on his catch and shoots, or even improves slightly, that opens up his ability to catch, rip and go and get to the rim.
As we wait on Caleb Grill’s decision, it could be that MIzzou goes into next season with a backcourt of Nick Honor, Sean East II, John Tonje, Tamar Bates, Curt Lewis, Caleb Grill, and Anthony Robinson. That’s real depth. And that doesn’t include the possibility, or likelihood, that Isiaih Mosley returns.
Tamar Bates is a big addition because you get a highly talented player, you get him close to home and more comfortable. You provide him the environment and runway to take off. And then you put him in a system that lets him go be him. And the worst case scenario is you get a high level defender, who’s low usage and cans threes when he’s open. Not bad.