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Mizzou Hoops Mailbag: Summer Edition

Tiger fans have submitted their hoops questions; we provide our answers.

SPORTS-BKC-GREGORIAN-COLUMN-KC Emily Curiel/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

With the Tigers’ first season under newly minted Coach Dennis Gates set to start in approximately 130 days, we’ve reached a little bit of a lull in the basketball calendar. What better time to take a step back, draw a deep breath, and to take stock on issues Tiger supporters are interested in?

Matt Watkins: I see two issues inherent to this question. 1. How deep does the “rotation” go? 2. Who fills those spots?

History shows us that Gates runs a pretty deep rotation comparatively to others. I look at as follows: How many players are getting 32+ minutes or more a night and how many are getting 8+ minutes a night. To me, those are rough guidelines to determine how a coach is rotation players in and out. More of the former necessarily means fewer of the latter. In 2022 Coach Martin had zero 32+ minute players and 8 who received 8+ per game. In 2021 he had 1 and 8, respectively. In his first year at Mizzou he had 2 and 8, respectively. And so it went. If he had all-league level players, they were going to play. A lot. And the “rotation” rarely went deeper than 8.

Coach Gates? In three years at Cleveland State, he never had a player reach 32 minutes a game and had 8 players reach 8+ minutes in 2022, and 9 in each of 2021 and 2020. This should not be a surprise. Leonard Hamilton, whom Gates coached under at FSU, has made lengthening the rotation an art form. Hamilton had not played an individual 32+ minutes per game since 2015. Over the last 3 seasons, he’s had 10 or 11 players reach 8 minutes. The bench is long and the minutes are manageable.

This leads into the second part. Who fills those spots? You’re not going to go 10-11 guys deep if you don’t have 10-11 guys who you think can compete. Coach Gates took over a very depleted Cleveland State squad in 2020. Is that the reason why he ran a slightly shorter rotation than Hamilton? Was it a move back to a more standard rotation? We don’t know.

As for Mizzou next year, I suspect you will see 9-11 guys log minutes on a given night. The length of that rotation will depend on how much players 10-13 are ready to compete. Assuming availability, I think you can write the following into that rotation in ink: Kobe Brown, Isiaih Mosley, D’Moi Hodge and Noah Carter. The second group of players I believe to be strong contenders to hit that 8+ minutes per game mark: Nick Honor, Sean East, Tre Gomillion and Aidan Shaw. The remaining players are not excluded by any means, I just have more questions on how and where they’ll fit into Gates’s system, and generally speaking skew a little less experienced: DeAndre Gholston, Ronnie DeGray III, Mohamed Diarra, Kaleb Brown and Mabor Majak.

M.W.: When looking at more of a traditional “rim-protector” on defense, Mizzou may be playing without one this season. That’s not to say there aren’t guys who can send shots into the crowd, it’s just that they aren’t on the court primarily for that reason. This represents a deviation from the last decade of Leonard Hamilton’s rosters who routinely boasts multiple shot-blocking machines in the form of very large human beings. Mizzou attempted to add that in pursuit of Jamarion Sharp out of Western Kentucky (also formerly a player under Kyle Smithpeters at John A. Logan College). That didn’t materialize. As such, Mizzou will rely more on their wings and combo forwards to provide resistance around the rim. It will also be imperative for their perimeter defense to be extra sturdy to lessen the need for a mistake-erasing monster.

On offense, I do think Mizzou may utilize “center-type” plays with non-traditional options. There are multiple players on the roster who have shown the ability to score on the block on post-ups. This includes more obvious options in Kobe Brown and Noah Carter, and perhaps less obvious options in Tre Gomillion and DeAndre Gholston. Posting guards is one of my joys in life. If you have the right matchup, who cares the relative size of the players? Some creativity may be able to offset the lack of a traditional center.

M.W.: Enjoy the A-10, Chuck.

M.W.: A recruiting question, and a good one! Shortly after calling for questions on the Twitter machine, Coach Gates and Coach Young landed their first 2023 commitment. There’s no question the new staff differs in “offer strategy” from the former one. Generally speaking, when Coach Martin offered a player, that meant they were fully pursuing that prospect as an option and were prepared to accept a commitment.

The new staff has cast a wide net in 2023, and especially in 2024. As for what exactly the “offer” indicates, I’m not 100% sure at this point. Obviously not everyone can accept an offer at any time, otherwise teams would blow past the 13-man roster limit. I just don’t know what contingencies (if any) are affixed to the new staffs’ offer at this point. Perhaps there’s none? First come first serve! So long as the parameters are communicated clearly between the parties, go about your business, I say.

M.W.: 16.9 PPG

M.W.: This question may honestly be better served by a whole piece, and maybe that’ll come later on! Presently, this is a really interesting topic. A year ago, Kobe was the target of some really interesting defensive philosophies. I feel like I may have even seen a box and one defense, with the box on Kobe. Overstatement? Maybe. But the problem was a real one.

With the addition of Isiaih Mosley, Mizzou added an elite scorer. Not just that, but he’s an elite creator of his own offense. Add to it his ability to shoot the ball in any number of situations and any player would benefit playing alongside. While Mosley can handle the ball, he’s likely better served playing off, opening up room for the new additions of Nick Honor, Tre Gomillion and Sean East. They have the ability to captain ball screens, find teammates on reads, handle pressure defense and knock down some jump shots. D’Moi Hodge and DeAndre Gholston add options who can operate as spot up shooters and rim attackers on cutting actions. Noah Carter is able to do a lot of the things Kobe did. Why do I point these things out specifically? Because Kobe was asked at times to do each and every one of those things a year ago.

I suspect Coach Gates’s offensive philosophy will eventually shift from his time at Cleveland State, but when? The way the Vikings operated on offense was fun to watch, though a bit unique in today’s game. Most actions were initiated by a guard entering the ball into the high post where a “big” acted as a playmaker at the elbow. Whether that involved the high post shooting a mid range jumper, attacking the rim off the bounce, baseline teammates making basket cuts looking for a feed, off-ball stagger screens opening up jump shooters, or the big looking to connect on a dribble hand-off that can operate as a pick and roll. All of those were options. And that’s an absolutely brilliant fit for Kobe! While he’s shown the ability to score in a number of ways, his versatility and play-making ability at his size is truly a separator.

Here are some clips of CSU’s elbow actions a year ago. Watch the big catch around the free throw line, see what they do, and imagine Kobe in that role.