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Zoom with Zo: Martin gets candid

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Coach Martin addressed the media for the first time following three big announcements last week

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to welcome Kortay Vincent to the RMN team. Kortay is an incoming journalism student at Missouri and will be providing a variety of coverage on Mizzou Athletics this upcoming year. Please help us welcome Kortay!

Mizzou basketball coach Cuonzo Martin fielded questions from reporters over zoom for about 30 minutes today and covered a variety of topics, including COVID-19, social justice, and the recent big news on the return of Jeremiah Tilmon, Mitchell Smith, and Xavier Pinson.

COVID

Martin was on the receiving end of a number of questions during this brief zoom call, and the number one thing people wanted to know about was how the ongoing COVID pandemic is affecting Tiger basketball. Martin highlighted the fact that the outbreak has drastically shifted the timetable of practice for his team. He explained that in a typical year the players would arrive on June 8th to begin summer practice, but currently only four players are on campus, with the rest expected to report August 13th. Upon their arrival, players will be expected to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days. Despite losing months of practice time, Martin continued to emphasize that at this moment, the health of his players is the most important thing. When asked about how pro sports leagues have handled the virus and if he looked to them for guidance, Martin stressed the difference of the on-campus aspect of college sports. With this in mind, he said that his team will be looking to the football season for examples and guidance of how to handle COVID in collegiate sports. He did add that if there was a silver lining to all that’s happening, it would be the recent time he has been able to spend with his family that he would not typically have had.

CONFERENCE ONLY SCHEDULES?

After the announcement that the SEC football season had moved to the 10-game conference-only schedule, it was inevitable this question would come up for basketball, too. Coach Martin explained that at this time a few ideas have been discussed by the SEC, but nothing concrete has been put in place. It is likely that this decision will come down much closer to the start of the season, and he added that a delayed start is not out of the realm of possibility at this point in time.

SOCIAL JUSTICE

Following the recent announcement that the NCAA will be joining many of the pro leagues in allowing players to display patches with social justice messages on it, Coach said that no decisions had been made at this point, but he does hope that the SEC joins together as one to display these messages together. Following his endorsement of the patches, Martin offered some powerful words about these tumultuous times our nation is enduring. He stated, “We have to be accountable to the truth,” and added, “It doesn’t matter black or white, it’s about being good people. That’s what we have to fight for.” To conclude this topic of discussion, Coach said that all members of the basketball team will register to vote in an effort to give his players a real opportunity to “affect change in the community.”

THE RETURNERS

Next season (assuming there is one), the Missouri Tigers will be the most experienced roster in all of the SEC, and Martin couldn’t be happier about it. With the return of Jeremiah Tilmon, Mitchell Smith and Xavier Pinson, there will be a strong veteran presence all over Norm Stewart Court in Columbia this year. Martin did say that although there is plenty of experience on this year’s team, every player needs to “sacrifice and commit to the team.” He emphasized the importance of each individual being productive on a per-minute basis to best enable overall team success. When asked about the individual players that announced their returns last week, Coach spoke on the energy and leadership Smith brings to the team and added that with another year of development, he firmly believes Jeremiah can mold himself into a fully-fledged NBA prospect in next year’s draft.