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K.J. Santos enters transfer portal and is set to leave Missouri

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After an ankle injury and a positional switch, the redshirt sophomore will seek a fresh start with a new program.

NCAA Basketball: Morehead State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When K.J. Santos committed to Missouri in late July 2017, the UIC transfer was looking for a high-major jumpstart a career disrupted by injuries and bouncing among prep programs. Unfortunately, any reboot won’t take place in Columbia.

Late last night Rock M Nation learned that Santos asked the Tigers’ staff for a release and intended to transfer. We were unable to confirm the news at the time and then today the news was confirmed by an MU Spokesperson to multiple reporters including Dave Matter of STLToday.com:

The departure comes on the heels of a largely forgettable season for the wing out of the Chicagoland area. A preseason ankle injury lingered and sidelined Santos for the majority of non-conference play, and when he did return to action, a positional switch to combo forward proved ill-fitting.

K.J. Santos | 2018-2019 Season

PPG RPG APG FG% 3FG% FT% ORTG eFG%
PPG RPG APG FG% 3FG% FT% ORTG eFG%
1.3 1.9 0.3 31.4 22.2 14.3 58.7 34.3
Sports Reference, KenPom

After supplanting Mitchell Smith early on in SEC action, Santos saw his minutes dwindle as he struggled to gain traction. During the season’s home stretch, Santos rode the bench in three of Mizzou’s final four games and only saw two minutes of action in the Tigers’ win over Georgia to open the SEC tournament.

Santos’ path to Mizzou was circuitous.

When he pledged to the Tigers, it came after he transferred out of UIC, where he had posted 7.1 points and 1.2 rebounds for the rebuilding Flames. His route led south to Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College, where he planned to spend to do a year-long stopover and boost interest among high-major suitors.

It turned out he didn’t need to wait that long.

Assistant coach Cornell Mann, who knew of Santos from his time as an assistant at Oakland University, extended a scholarship offer. Santos didn’t hesitate, either. But instead of logging one JUCO season, Santos returned home to suburban Chicago, took classes at a nearby Elgin Community and worked out with trainer Chis Conrad.

In total, Santos endured a 20-month layoff before this season arrived.

When he did return, a game was built around a reliable spot-up jumper instead saw Santos operating more in the post on the offensive end and matched up more traditional bigs defensively. Ultimately, Santos only attempted nine 3-pointers last season, connecting at just a 22 percent clip.

With his exit, Santos’ becomes the fourth player to transfer from Missouri since Martin’s hiring and the second this seas after wing Christian Guess, who arrived in September, decamped at mid-season.

It also opens up a third scholarship for the Tigers to fill this spring. The program is currently hosting Duquesne transfer Eric Williams Jr. on an official visit. Practically, Santos’ absence won’t blow a hole in the Tigers returning production next season.

In terms of depth, Martin can assemble a backcourt out of Dru Smith, Xavier Pinson, Mark Smith, Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett and Mario McKinney Jr. The Tigers could also keep rising senior Ronnie Suggs on the scholarship he was awarded after Guess moved on.

We’ll have more in the coming days on the impact of the roster and the scholarship situation moving forward.