Late August is normally a slow period for basketball recruiting, but a flurry of news nuggets filtered out over this past weekend, with Missouri making a few offers, making some cut-down lists, and getting back in the game on one of its top targets.
Let’s hop to the updates on all things 2018 and 2019 recruiting, start with the big news.
Torrence Watson opens things back up
Watson was a high-priority target for the Tigers from the moment Cuonzo Martin accepted the job. Martin knew he’d have several wing positions to fill, and the 4-star wing from St. Louis was highly sought after until he committed to Ohio State in early June.
The commitment surprised everyone, as many figured Watson would want to stay closer to home. As it turns out, the original line of thinking was correct, if only delayed.
Eric Bossi wrote about Watson on Monday on Rivals:
Though he's not currently doing interviews, Watson mentioned in his announcement that he may look into finding a program closer to home. Previous to his commitment to Ohio State, Missouri, St. Louis, DePaul, Iowa State had offered scholarships to the St. Louis native.
Sources indicate to Rivals.com that Watson could be looking to make something happen in the relatively near future so this is one to keep monitoring closely.
Watson’s top eight were Missouri, SLU, Creighton, Butler (he was originally recruited by Chris Holtmann, who is now at Ohio State), Vanderbilt, Kansas State, Marquette, and Michigan. I could see a revised list that includes Iowa State.
So what are Mizzou’s chances? It would be tough to say they are far and away the leader, but it would appear they are in a position of strength. Martin’s staff worked hard to create a relationship with him and obviously qualifies as a nearby option, but do not discount Saint Louis University. Travis Ford is a tough recruiter and has been on Watson for a while as well.
New Offer: Kyler Edwards, 3-star wing
Kyler Edwards is a 3-star wing from Arlington (Tex.) who is on his way to Findlay Prep to finish out his high school career. The Edwards offer seemed to come out just before the Watson announcement, so it remains to be seen how ardently Mizzou will pursue Edwards — it might depend on whether they feel confident in landing Watson.
Edwards is a nice athlete with a solid lower base. He’s got big, strong legs, which makes him a little deceptive with his quickness, particularly on the second jump. He’s a good shooter and has a college-ready body, which means he could be able to contribute right away.
I don’t know how much of a threat Missouri will be in his recruitment because Edwards is a Dallas-Ft Worth native and has local school SMU on his trails.
FINAL 13! (that’s still a lot of schools)
It feels like Talen Horton-Tucker is a name we’ve been talking about for a decade. He visited with the previous staff once they hired Emanuel Dildy, and the new staff stayed on him once they took over.
Apparently Mizzou has made enough of an impression to stay on Horton-Tucker’s cut-down list — his final 13 schools. Thirteen. Just wanted to say that again.
It’s been rumored that Michigan State has the upper hand, but this has been a long process. I’d like to see more of a cut-down before thinking Mizzou has a shot. Ultimately, I expect them to focus on Watson and Jericole Hellums on the wing.
Speaking of Hellums...
Jericole Hellems blew up, then went on radio silence
Seven weeks ago, Hellems arrived at the Peach Jam in relative anonymity. Aside from South Carolina, high-major programs were taking a wait-and-see approach to the Chaminade product, who had struggled for the bulk of his spring and summer on the EYBL circuit.
You know what happened next: Hellems transformed his recruitment by weekend’s end. Then he went silent.
Hellums chatted with scribes onsite at Peach Jam. During the final week of the July period, Scout’s Josh Gershon stole a couple of minutes in Las Vegas, where Hellems said NC State, Arkansas, and South Carolina were making him a priority. Five days later, on August 3, he dropped a top-7 list.
Then came this past weekend, when Hellems managed to keep a trip to NC State, his first official visit, largely under wraps.
2018 3 Star Forward Jericole Hellems (@JericoleHellems) will be on an official visit to NC State this weekend— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) August 25, 2017
Barring a sudden change in approach, Hellems recruitment will remain as quiet as it has been efficient. Mizzou assistant Chris Hollender continues to run point, and Mizzou remains in a favorable position. Hellems and his family are keeping their plans under seal, and a source said it’s unlikely the prospect — whose ultimate home at the college level may be on the wing — drags out the recruiting process out.
“It’s going to be narrowed down quick and tight before the season starts,” the source said. “Expect it to be done pretty quick.”
Mizzou is a safe bet to get a visit, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume the Gamecocks also get their opportunity. Carolina was on Hellems during the June lull in the EYBL slate. Assistant coach Chuck Martin is also familiar with Hellems from his time on Tom Crean’s staff at Indiana, which had extended an offer back in January — one that Archie Miller didn’t renew when he took over in Bloomington.
The valuation of Hellems’ stock have certainly brightened, too. He’s now the No. 88 player in Scout’s index. He jumped 245 spots in 247Sports’ composite index to No. 144, and Bossi said Hellems will likely earn a four-star rating in its next update for Rivals.
Mario McKinney: Ringleader?
Admittedly, the focus of fans is near-term: What will Cuonzo do for an encore in his 2018 recruiting class?
There is potential for another blockbuster class in 2019, though, and Mario McKinney — who is entering his junior season at St. Louis Vashon — sticks out as an ideal ringleader. Mizzou tracked him closely in the early days of Peach Jam, where he played on the 16U squad for Bradley Beal Elite. And this past weekend, he took his second unofficial visit to Columbia.
McKinney has the athleticism and attacking mentality in the open floor that fits the natural contours of a wing. However, his size — 6’2, 180 pounds — may lead some staffs to evaluate his potential to fit as a point or combo guard. He’s also a committed defender, which is always a necessity in Martin’s program.
Mizzou is in great shape with McKinney. “If Mario pulled the plug tomorrow, I would bet it would be them,” a source said.
No doubt, the connection to former Mizzou guard Jimmy McKinney, Mario’s cousin, is obvious. But it will be interesting to see how committed Martin remains to an NBA-style offense, or if he reverts to the motion-inspired system he’s run previously. Additionally, McKinney’s decision-making with the ball in his hands has to get better, and that may hinge on how much Vashon plays him at lead guard.
“If it’s ‘Get it, go, and you need a basket,’ he can do that,” the source said. “If he’s going to play at the highest level, his basketball IQ needs to get better.”
Still, McKinney checks off plenty of boxes, and an early commitment also turns McKinney into a potential ringleader for other recruits like post E.J. Liddell and Francis Okoro. Granted, the latter of those two may be harder to woo.
Oh, and speaking of Liddell...
During EYBL play, Liddell was nothing if not efficient, posting 9.5 points, grabbing 4.2 rebounds and shooting 57.5 percent from the floor in just over 10 minutes a game. That was coming off a sophomore season at Belleville (Ill.) West, where he was an All-Metro player.
If the past three years have taught us anything, it’s that predicting the shape of Mizzou’s roster two years into the future is a fool’s errand. Today, Mizzou has a pair of elite big men in freshmen Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter. But if Martin were in need of a replacement for one of them, he could do worse than Liddell, who has already taken unofficial visits to Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.
Liddell is long, quick off the floor, and a natural rim protector. He’s strong and able to work on the block, albeit with footwork that’s in need of polishing. But he’s also got a sneaky face-up game that can work in pick-and-pop scenarios. He’s a prospect who can kick off a fast break with a block at the rim, hustle to fill a lane in the resulting fast break, and catch and finish at the rim.
Given MU’s run of good fortune in Metro East, the assumption is that Martin’s roots and ties may yield another top-flight prospect. Except, well, Illinois has been around awhile, too. Martin and his staff certainly have time to make inroads, but Liddell and his parents are fond of new Illini coach Brad Underwood, and it looks like Illinois is the front runner right now.
Again, it’s early. But Liddell’s recruitment will feature Martin, SLU assistant coach Corey Tate and Illinois staffer Jamal Walker squaring off to land the big man’s pledge.
- Memphis point guard Alex Lomax visited Wichita State last weekend and told us he plans to take an official visit to Mizzou.
- Combo guard Duane Washington Jr. transferred to prep power Sierra Canyon in California. He also picked up offers from Virginia Tech, Michigan, Ohio State and UCLA. He’s reportedly trimming his list of schools. “We’re going to try to get through August, trim the list to schools I’m serious about attending. I want to make a decision in November prior to Signing Day,” he told Scout.
- Mizzou offered four-star combo guard Dwayne Cohill on August 14, but in the past two weeks the No. 93 player in 247’s composite has already set four official visits to Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Dayton and Vanderbilt. The Ohio native told PowerMizzou that Martin has made him a priority.
- Mizzou hosted point guard D.J. Carton, a 4-star 2019 prospect out of Bettendorf, Iowa, for an unofficial visit this past weekend, and PowerMizzou caught up with him. Carton’s comments were fairly benign, but the fact he visited is a notable when MU still hasn’t been able to get Rocket Watts to make it down from Michigan.
- We spent a ton of time dissecting prospects from St. Louis, but we haven’t neglected the state’s western half, either. This week we chatted with MoKan Elite coach Chris Neff about a trio of 2019 prospects in combo forward Malik Hall, wing Isiaih Mosley and post Roman Wilson. You can listen in below or subscribe on iTunes and Android.
Bon Voyage! Farewell!
It wouldn’t be a recruiting update if we didn’t bid adieu to prospects who decided to go in a different direction. And that includes 2019 point guard Jeremiah Francis, who committed to North Carolina. So, here are the guys you can stop stalking on Twitter.
- Montez Mathis: Committed to Rutgers
- Nassir Little: Trimmed his list to Duke, Arizona, North Carolina, Miami (Fla.) and Georgia Tech
- Justin Ahrens: Cut down list and taking officials to Xavier, Ohio State and Michigan
- Aaron Henry: Set a top five of Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Xavier and Butler
- Darius Days: Reached final five of LSU, Louisville, North Carolina, Xavier, Ohio State
- Naz Reid: Announced he’s down to LSU and Arizona