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Missouri might be dealing with more scholarship openings

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The season has wrapped, so who is Mizzou targeting for 2018 and beyond?

mizzou basketball recruiting 2017-18

Last week, we spent some time setting the table for the offseason. Shortly after the last piece went up, there were rumblings from multiple sources indicating both Porters would be declaring for the NBA draft.

The news about Michael Porter isn’t a big surprise, but I think most who paid attention this season thought the odds of Jontay Porter coming back were fairly high, even if he declared for the draft. From what I’ve heard from multiple sources, it would be a surprise if there were any Porters on the bench at Missouri next year.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Nashville Practice Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

If both Michael and Jontay enter the NBA draft, their father, assistant coach Michael Sr., will quite possibly follow them out the door as well. I don’t want this to sound like MPS would be fired, but it’s possible he would want to have a hand in his sons’ professional careers. Senior was hired by Cuonzo Martin and Missouri to bring him back to Columbia with his sons in tow, and if both are gone he’ll potentially be gone as well.

The big question at this stage revolves around Jontay. Most in the Mizzou media seem to intimate that they think Jontay will test the draft waters but that it’s ultimately still a tossup on whether he will stay in the draft or not. There’s still a remote possibility Jontay returns, I guess. But everything I’ve been told would indicate Missouri is preparing to go into next season without any of the Porters.

As we discussed last week, not having Jontay likely lowers the ceiling for the team next year but does mean Missouri has an extra scholarship to play around with. And there was some interesting movement over the weekend we need to discuss.

PG Courtney Ramey (6’3, 170, 4-star prospect from Webster Groves, Mo.)

We’ve talked plenty about Ramey — for years, really — and the momentum seems to be a little on Missouri’s side despite all the twists and turns. But one thing I want to make clear is that, as of today, there is still a ways to go.

Most of you know the saga: Ramey was a Louisville commit who was forced to back off his pledge once Rick Pitino and the Cardinals ended up mixed up in college basketball’s FBI scandal. Missouri went all in on Ramey to start, then completely backed off, likely thinking it was a wasted effort.

However, something changed — Missouri officially offered Ramey a few weeks back, and suddenly Cuonzo Martin started showing up to every game.

Everything up until the last few days indicated Mizzou and Ramey were headed towards a marriage, but another zag in the story has Missouri offering Illinois transfer Mark Smith, which seems to muddy the water a bit.

CG Mark Smith (6’4, 225, Illinois transfer from Edwardsville, Ill.)

Smith, if you remember, was a major Mizzou target last spring and chose his home state Illinois over Mizzou, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Smith was one of the hottest prospects in the country at this time last season after deciding to focus on basketball over baseball and putting together a breakout senior season.

His trip to Champaign didn’t quite turn out the way everyone expected. He averaged 13.8 PPG over the first five games, his production fell off. He only hit double figures twice the rest of the year, and there were rumors halfway through the season that Smith was looking to get out. He did as soon as the season wrapped.

Initially it looked like Missouri wasn’t going to pursue Smith with traction being made with Ramey and with the need of immediate help outside. Taking a player who was going to have to sit out for a year just didn’t seem to match up. However, something changed with Missouri’s plans, and I don’t disagree with the change.

If you can spare a scholarship, Smith is talented enough to stash for a year because the return for him playing in 2019-20 should be huge. A backcourt that potentially features Ramey, Smith, Torrence Watson, and others could be very exciting. Besides that, Smith is talented enough that if you can reel him in, it could pay big dividends. That’s reason enough.

There’s still time to go with Smith. He’s been contacted by Creighton, Kansas State, Butler, Boston College, and others. But there are rumors Smith would like to stay close to his Edwardsville home and that he has a lot of interest in Missouri.

The main complication is that I’m not entirely sure Mizzou will take both Ramey and Smith, but rather one or the other. I’d wager they want to lure a graduate transfer guard rather than go into next season with Xavier Pinson and maybe Ramey as the only true point guard(s) on the roster.

CF Blake Hinson (6’7, 230, 4-star prospect from Wichita, Kan.)

Call this Jontay insurance if you want, but Hinson is an intriguing prospect on his own. He’s the brother of Evan Hinson, the dual-sport athlete from South Carolina who moonlights off the bench for Frank Martin. Blake was a highly-rated tight end who decided he wanted to play basketball and is an inside-outside threat who can play the perfect stretch-four in today’s more open game.

He’s a bit of a load down around the basket but doesn’t have elite size at just 6’7. Still, his expanded range makes him a tough matchup. Missouri is entering the mix a bit late, but Hinson hasn’t gone out of his way to name a leader, releasing a sorta “final 3” of Illinois, Seton Hall and Washington State a while back. He’s had new interest from Ole Miss, Kansas and Missouri, among others.

It would seem he’s still relatively open, and the Tigers entering late might not hurt them. We’ll see if he works out a Mizzou visit, but it’s clear Missouri is planning on the inevitability of filling the scholarship voids left by Michael Jr. and Jontay.

mizzou scholarship count 3-19-18 no porter

The priority is still very much Courtney Ramey, but I think it’s clear Cuonzo Martin wants to land an elite guard with this class no matter what, which might explain the offer to Mark Smith. I do think they can take both, but I don’t believe they will. It looks to be one or the other unless there is an unexpected departure on the roster.

Matt will have more on the Graduate transfer outlook later in the week. Until then, we’ll be monitoring these three prospects very closely.