With the season behind us and most of the eyes in college basketball turned towards the NCAA tournament, the eyes of Missouri basketball fans have turned towards next season. Hope is still emanating through the fan base in large part, and Cuonzo Martin and his staff are heading out onto the recruiting trail in hopes of having a big offseason.
There are known knowns and known unknowns for Missouri’s roster right now. So we’re going to focus on a very simple outcome, and what I believe to be the most likely scenario as we watch things unfold over the next few months to project where the Tigers are likely to end up in August.
Kevin Puryear, Jordan Geist, Cullen VanLeer and Adam Wolf are all moving on. Puryear is just Mizzou’s third four-year senior since Laurence Bowers graduated after the 2013 season. (Ryan Rosburg , who graduated following the 2015 season, is the other).
Meanwhile, Geist turned himself into a fixture in the Tigers backcourt the past few years and has announced he plans to sign with an agent and give a go at the NBA. Geist will likely try to catch on to a roster for the NBA Summer League and could earn a nice living in Europe.
VanLeer medically retired and didn’t play his last year of eligibility, and Wolf was a walk-on who garnered quite a bit of love and adoration from Mizzou fans over the years.
Who’s SUPPOSED to come back?
- Reed Nikko: The big man has proven to be a reliable backup center for the Tigers and even had several breakout games this past season. He should be back.
- Ronnie Suggs: Originally a walk-on, Suggs earned a scholarship by being a consistent defender and working hard on the glass.
The Crowded Junior class
- Jeremiah Tilmon: He could be described as enigmatic, but Tilmon is still a high ceiling big who could be poised for a breakout season.
- Mitchell Smith: His playing time fluxed all season, but he was playing better down the stretch and just needed to find some defensive consistency.
- Dru Smith: After sitting this season out, the Evansville transfer has the chance to capture a starting role taking over for Geist.
- Mark Smith: I’m just lumping all the Smiths together, but Mark was Mizzou’s most consistent perimeter shooter and defender before suffering a foot injury.
- K.J. Santos: The UIC transfer saw his playing time virtually disappear, but with some more consistent play next year, he could carve out a role.
The Sturdy Sophomores
- Torrence Watson: Watson’s play down the stretch has to give Martin and his staff confidence in their ability to trot out multiple scoring threats.
- Javon Pickett: Pickett struggled with a back ailment down the stretch but showed he can compete in the SEC.
- Xavier Pinson: A little up and down all year, Pinson had some really bright moments, but he needs to defend better and find ways to impact the game within the offense.
- Evan Yerkes: A walk-on last season, not expected to contend for a scholarship.
- Brooks Ford: Another walk-on, Ford is the son of SLU coach Travis Ford.
Maybe a redshirt year will help?
- Parker Braun: Braun has the size and skill to be an impact player at this level but needed a redshirt year to build up his body. He was a walk-on last year and will be a redshirt freshman this upcoming season.
Who’s coming in?
All fine freshmen
- Mario McKinney Jr.: An electric combo guard who may need to develop his skill level but will impact the game with his athleticism from day one.
- Tray Jackson: Jackson has a huge ceiling and could contend for the starting position at the four right away.
There are two questions which need answering:
- Will Jontay Porter enter, and stay in, the draft this year?
- Will there be any transfers?
Here’s the current up to date scholarship count:
We do expect Jontay Porter to enter and stay in the draft, which is why he’s not listed on the 2019-2020 graphic. I also don’t like to project potential transfers, so you won’t see me attempting to forecasting who might search out greener pastures. With Geist and Puryear moving on, Mizzou fills in those holes with McKinney and Jackson. If Suggs is kept on scholarship and Jontay leaves, Missouri would have one scholarship remaining.
Today, Sean McNeil, a JUCO prospect out of Ohio, snipped the Tigers from the list of six schools still in the running for his services. That leaves Mizzou with one very real primary spring target: Myron Gardner. (Matt will have more on n the coming days). It also looks like they’re out on combo guard Harlond Beverly, and we don’t know if they’ll plan to pursue any graduate transfers.
If Mizzou is able to land Gardner, the breakdown by position would look like this:
- Point Guard: Dru Smith, Xavier Pinson
- Combo Guard: Mark Smith, Mario McKinney
- Wing: Ronnie Suggs, Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett, Myron Gardner
- Combo Forward: Mitchell Smith, Tray Jackson, K.J. Santos, Parker Braun
- Post: Jeremiah Tilmon, Reed Nikko
Dru is capable of playing and defending all three guard spots, as is Mark Smith. McKinney isn’t a polished ball-handler but has enough athleticism to overcome that deficiency. Smith, Suggs, and Gardner are all flexible and good enough rebounders to play the four. While Santos, Jackson, and Smith could all play the wing in a pinch.
That’s the beginning of a really nice flexible roster of versatile players. With the turnover throughout the rest of the SEC, it’s easy to see why Mizzou fans are optimistic this team could make a significant jump into the top-30 next year, and maybe even top four in the SEC.
We’ll have more player reviews coming in the next few days, but it’s going to be important to get the Jontay Porter question answered sooner rather than later, and if there are not going to be any transfers out it’d be good to know that sooner as well. Having only three new additions to the roster next year would be kind of nice and steady. Something we haven’t experienced around Columbia for a while.