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Q&A: Mizzou has plenty of point guards, but Alex Lomax remains a priority

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The Memphis native was Cuonzo Martin’s first offer after arriving at MU and says he’ll take an official visit to Columbia.

FloSports: FloHoops Nike EYBL Finals Peach Jam
Alex Lomax was the first recruit to receive a scholarship offer after Cuonzo Martin’s arrival at Missouri.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Performing a little roster math reveals a pretty clear answer: Missouri doesn’t need to sign a point guard in its 2018 recruiting class.

A reserve supply of ball-handlers is never a bad thing, but landing Alex Lomax’s services would arguably create a log jam for demand on minutes, with Terrence Phillips, Blake Harris, C.J. Roberts, and Jordan Geist already capable of playing in the backcourt.

In effect, the staff would have five contenders for just 80 minutes.

Yet Martin’s first offer in Columbia didn’t go to a wing or combo forward. Instead, it went to Lomax, who is rated No. 140 in the 247Sports Composite.

On closer inspection, though, the decision wasn’t surprising. Last July, Martin, then still at Cal, was among the first high-major coaches to offer Lomax, who had a breakout performance at the Peach Jam. And over the past year, the 6’0, 190-pounder assembled a stellar junior year, guiding Memphis East to back-to-back state titles and being named the Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball.

Point guard is such a priority for Memphis that head coach Tubby Smith canceled Easter plans with his family to host Lomax on an unofficial visit. Ole Miss, located roughly an hour away, is also heavily involved, and Florida has made a strong push of its own.

On August 13, Lomax revealed the top-six contenders for his services, and MU remains in the mix.

And on Thursday night, he tweeted that he is flying to Wichita State today for his first official visit.

Lomax is on the smaller side but is sturdy and well built. He can change speeds smoothly and has a tight handle and an ability to work in the tight confines of the lane. Amongst taller bodies, Lomax has the strength and body control to shield the ball or use the rim for protection. He also owns a refined floater, and his jumper is sound.

What stands out most, however, is his mindset and vast experience running experienced, talented roster. Last summer, he distributed the ball to forward P.J. Washington, who could start at Kentucky, and wing John Petty, a significant addition to Alabama’s roster. During this go-around on the EYBL, teammates included wing top-100 prospects in James Wiseman, D.J. Jeffries, Chandler Lawson, Malcolm Dandridge— all of whom except Jeffries are Lomax’s teammates at East.

And then there’s Lomax character, which The Commercial Appeal intricately and deftly detailed earlier this month. For much of Lomax’s childhood, his father was incarcerated, and his Binghampton neighborhood helped rear him.

By the time he was in middle school, his skills on the floor brought him into the fold of Team Penny, a program with a name drawn from an obvious source: founder and former NBA All-Star Anfernee Hardaway.

The overlap in narratives with Martin’s upbringing in East St. Louis is also self-evident.

So it makes sense why Missouri would be keen to add Lomax. As August unfolded, the list of viable targets was whittled down, too. Right now, Lomax, wing Jericole Hellems, and combo guard Duane Washington are the presumed top targets.

We caught up with Lomax last week for a brief chat about where he stands in the recruiting process, his relationship with Martin, and what he does off the floor.

ROCK M NATION: I’ll start with a couple of process questions. Do you plan to sign a letter of intent this spring? Is that the idea?

ALEX LOMAX: I’m looking at late or mid-season.

RMN: What’s driving that decision?

AL: Just to have more time to make the best choice.

RMN: Is that rooted in wanting to see more campuses, styles of play and how teams are doing up close? We are seeing a flurry of them before practice even starts.

AL: It’s a little bit of both. I know a little bit about each of the coach’s style, but I want some to time to get to learn each of the schools better and each their atmospheres.

RMN: You’ve been to Memphis several times and down to Ole Miss, but have you been able to get down to see Florida?

AL: That’s one I haven’t been to yet, but I plan to get down there soon. I don’t have any specific dates yet, but we’re working on that.

RMN: Is it likely Missouri is going to get an official visit, and, if so, also a matter of getting the dates lined up.

AL: Missouri is going to get an official, too. I just don’t know the exact date of that, either.

RMN: Cuonzo Martin was one of the first high-major coaches to make a scholarship offer last year, and along the way your profile has certainly grown. What stuck out to you when he first made contact at Cal, and what’s kept him in the mix since?

AL: He’s easy to talk to. We talk a lot, we text a lot. We related to each other a lot, just in terms of lifestyles and where we [each] grew up. There’s just an understanding there, and we’ve got a connection as a coach and as a player. But that’s also as a mentor, a father, and a son. It’s great experience.

RMN: Cuonzo’s story is known, but in public his personality seems to be that of a coach who looks forward and not back. Has he talked about what is like growing up in East St. Louis, and if so, what has he shared with you?

AL: It’s more of him just talking to me about where I grew up, and he can relate to what I’ve been through.

RMN: How much are you guys in touch?

AL: We talk to each other every day or at least every other day. He’s always checking on me.

RMN: What about his coaching style or his system appeals to you?

AL: He lets his kids play, and he really stresses defense. That’s a major thing to him, and it’s what I like about him. And the team just has that family atmosphere and always seems to be really close together. He also expects you to go out make the right play. He’s putting his trust in you, and you have to live up to big expectations.

RMN: The Commercial-Appeal did a long story on your upbringing in Binghampton and your relationship with your dad. That’s rejuvenated, and you all have been able to rebuild some bonds. Does that factor at all into your recruitment? Memphis is practically down the street, and Ole Miss is not that far away. It seems as if you could have a fulfilling college experience and be in close proximity.

AL: It doesn’t matter. I’m looking at both. Staying home would be great. But I could go far away and get a chance to do some things on my own. They’ll all still be right there with me along the way. It’s just that [the distance] would be a little bit farther away.

RMN: You’re also an honors student, you tutor students after school, and you’re a member of the poetry club. What do those outlets offer that basketball might not?

AL: Mentally, it keeps me busy, keeps me out of trouble. But it’s something you really want to get into once you figure out that you might be able to help people. It’s great seeing other people be successful and knowing you had a role. The more you realize that, the more you want to do it.

RMN: What appealed to you about the poetry club?

AL: It’s just a way to take some time, go through what’s on your mind and write it out in different ways. You get a chance to perform in front of the student body that comes to see the group we have. You just get a chance to perform and speak your mind.

RMN: On the floor, you’ve had the benefit of coming up through a couple of solid programs in East and Team Penny. What do you feel has been the biggest imprint those programs have left on you as a player? Is it a skillset? Is it an approach to the position?

AL: They worked me out physically, but they were always testing my mental makeup. They wanted me to be strong. They didn’t want anybody ever to be able to break me. They put a spirit of a dog in me to go out compete to the end.

They just put a love of the game in me. I always had a love for it and wanted to get better, but they made me love it even more. They just give me a lot of knowledge. They want me to out-think other players on the court.

RMN: You’ve always been in a position where you played the lead guard on rosters with guys who weren’t just older, but pretty highly-touted players like P.J. Washington, John Petty, James Wiseman, and so on. How do you think that’s helped shape you as a point guard?

AL: I’ve always been going against older guys. It was like that as a kid. When I was six years or seven years old, I was playing with guys who were nine or 10 years old. I've just adapted to it. And it’s just a blessing with guys who might have a chance to go to the NBA. You learn their styles and you get to help them be the best they can be. That’s the bonus for me.

RMN: You don’t just play for Penny Hardaway, but you spend tons of time at his home and with his son. It’s been mentioned in other pieces that he sees truly sees you as an extension of himself on the floor. How much of what he does for you is mentally?

AL: He’s taught me everything mentally, and there’s still more I can learn. He works me out almost every day and has since I was younger (in middle school). But he does that for all of us on the team. He’s going to teach you something new every practice, you just to take it in your hands.