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Missouri’s options for a grad transfer are dwindling

Who’s left? And what happens if Courtney Ramey doesn’t choose the Tigers?

NCAA Basketball: America East Final-UAlbany vs Vermont
Albany’s Joe Cremo has been one of the more coveted graduate transfers this spring.
Burlington Free Press-USA TODAY NETWORK

Since last weekend, I’ve been bombarded with the same query: What happens if Missouri misses out on Courtney Ramey?

Truthfully, I don’t know.

No one does.

Patience is also starting to fray since news broke Monday that Louisville has renewed its pursuit of the highly-touted Webster Groves point guard. On Tuesday night, Cuonzo Martin and his entire staff got their pow-wow to pitch the Rameys, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that the living room might as well have been plopped along the banks of the Rubicon.

What kind of timeframe are we looking at?

Try two weeks. Or so said Courtney Ramey’s father, Terrell, in a piece posted by 247Sports.

Without a doubt, Mizzou’s pursuit of Ramey should be front and center. Landing a top-50 recruit at a position of urgent need is worth the hassle of a prolonged recruitment, especially one who’s an optimal fit for what Martin covets at that spot.

But as Mizzou geared up to chat with Ramey, another tremor rumbled earlier in the day when Maine combo guard Aaron Calixte made a long-expected commitment to Oklahoma. With his pledge, Calixte became the last graduate transfer contacted by Mizzou to commit elsewhere, effectively wiping that part of the recruiting board clean. If you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick refresher on the other candidates:

  • Evansville wing Ryan Taylor: contacted, committed to Northwestern
  • Albany point guard David Nichols: contacted, committed to Florida State
  • South Dakota combo guard Matt Mooney: contacted, set official visits on Monday.

By now, we’ve beaten you silly with the idea that there’s increasing opportunity cost in pursuing Ramey. Specifically, a once-robust market for graduate transfers — especially for point guards, combo guards, and wings — is starting to run low on inventory.

The calendar is also starting to work against the staff. This upcoming weekend is the first evaluation period of the grassroots season, marking the marking the return of coaches donning logo-splotched polo shirts to hothouse gyms. As much as fans are fretting over next year’s roster, MU’s staff still has to keep up momentum with a loaded regional class in 2019.

Next, the pace of transactions has sped up for grad transfers, with most coveted prospects seeking to wrap up their searches by May 1. That leaves two weeks open for MU to line up prospective visitors, and one of those weekends (April 25-27) is already claimed by Evansville transfer Dru Smith.

So far, Mizzou’s strategy has been to largely stay out of the scramble for veteran players who could provide immediate help and betting a large chunk of its portfolio in Ramey. If it doesn’t pan out, though, backup options could be few and far between.

Take a gander at the top 25 graduate transfers below, a list compiled using Bart Torvik’s rankings. Based on our reporting and the diligent work of national scribes, we can say with certainty that Mizzou only spoke with two players listed — Mooney and Calixte.

Graduate Transfer Rankings

1 Joe Cremo Albany 89 4.2 120 24 55 60.1 2.1 11.7 21.8 15.1 0.9 1.5 40.9
2 Matt Mooney South Dakota 78.9 3.4 109.1 29.6 51.8 55.6 2.6 11.7 19.9 15 0.4 3.5 26.1
3 Justin Coleman Samford 82.2 3.2 111.3 24.7 52.1 56.5 1.3 8.5 37.8 18.9 0 2 31.2
4 Trey Porter Old Dominion 58.6 3 118.7 25.6 59 62.1 11.6 17.8 4.6 12.7 7.2 1.2 76.4
5 Ryan Luther Pittsburgh 25.2 2.9 107.4 24 51.4 53.5 13.1 22.1 22.8 14.8 2.3 3 27.6
6 Wyatt Walker Samford 67.2 2.8 116.3 21.5 58 62.7 12.5 25.2 10.6 18.3 3.2 1.2 56.8
7 Ehab Amin Texas A&M Corpus Chr 84.4 2.7 105.5 27 50.3 53.8 6.6 16.4 18.4 16.1 1.2 5.8 32.8
8 Michael Finke Illinois 53.7 2.7 117.1 17.3 54.6 55.4 7.9 14.5 8.5 10.3 1.4 0.7 21.7
9 DeSean Murray Auburn 59.7 2.7 112.3 22.2 49.2 56.5 12.2 18.7 14 19 2.7 2 48.4
10 Keyshawn Woods Wake Forest 58 2.6 106.9 22.7 50.7 55 2.3 8.9 15.3 15.7 0 1.8 26.4
11 Zach Johnson Florida Gulf Coast 82.5 2.6 111.3 22.8 54.9 58.2 1.7 9.1 15.7 17.2 0.4 3.2 28.3
12 Andre Fox High Point 71.2 2.5 107.6 25.8 54.6 58.2 1.7 18.6 9.2 16.6 1.3 2.5 40.3
13 Prentiss Nixon Colorado St. 66.2 2.4 100.4 25.5 44.5 50.5 1 10.5 12.9 14.4 0.1 2.6 33.4
14 Aaron Calixte Maine 84.4 2.2 100 26.6 53.7 59 1.6 8.8 23 24.4 0.4 1.5 31.4
15 Nat Dixon Chattanooga 86 2.1 106.4 19.6 53.4 56.9 3.6 11.8 11.4 16.8 0.8 1.6 34.3
16 Khwan Fore Richmond 71.9 2 104.4 19.4 50.2 53.6 3 9.5 15.7 14.3 0.5 1.7 46.3
17 Nico Clareth Siena 30 2 96.5 32.1 46.3 52.2 2.7 12.5 17.4 20.9 2 1.8 31.7
18 Cheddi Mosely Boston University 2.6 1.9 123.2 17.8 72.2 75.4 0 23.1 6.7 21.1 0 1.9 22.2
19 Eric Lockett FIU 92.4 1.9 101 21.3 47.9 51.2 3.7 15.6 16.7 15 1.2 1.7 28.9
20 Don Coleman California 73.2 1.9 95.2 26.2 36.5 44.8 3.6 7.4 13.4 13.7 0.1 2.6 51.6
21 Zaynah Robinson Norfolk St. 85.5 1.8 106.7 21.2 44.8 49.5 1.2 8.8 27.1 12.5 0.4 2.6 30.8
22 Mike Cunningham USC Upstate 82.4 1.8 104 21.1 47.2 49.2 2.2 7.8 16.8 11.2 0.2 1.3 13.3
23 Femi Olujobi North Carolina A&T 72 1.8 105.8 23.3 55 60.1 5.8 20.8 7.6 19.5 2.3 0.8 49.5
24 Joseph Chartouny Fordham 83.4 1.6 94.9 23.6 43.6 48.4 2.5 16.4 28.9 16.8 1 5.6 39.7
25 Dexter McClanahan Savannah St. 73.7 1.5 102.5 22.3 48.4 52.3 3.4 10.9 11.5 13.5 0.5 1.9 33.2

A familiar routine unfolded, too: MU made contact with grad transfer, held an initial series of conversations but stopped short of arranging an in-home or official visit.

Take Calixte, for example. The guard went on an official visit to Oklahoma last weekend but left Norman without committing. Theoretically, Mizzou could have scrambled to get Calixte to Columbia this weekend, which still would have allowed to meet a stated deadline of committing by week’s end. However, Calixte told Rock M Nation on Tuesday that MU didn’t make an attempt to line up a last-minute trip.

“No,” he texted just an hour before revealing OU as his choice. “Nothing from Mizzou.”

MU was among the first schools to talk with Calixte, using Robertson’s development as the crux of its pitch. Make no mistake, Calixte was extremely interested. However, OU’s Lon Kruger and DePaul’s Dave Leitao sprinted to sit down across from him and make their case.

Several weeks ago, Calixte told me that he couldn’t pin MU’s staff down on whether it would hold a similar meeting. Mizzou made his list of finalists, but it was clear that Kruger’s multiple meetings and quick move to get him on campus were as influential as his open-wheeled offense.

Meanwhile, Nichols told me Mizzou had an introductory conversation with his father, but there wasn’t a follow-up chat. Mooney passed along that Tigers assistant coach Chris Hollender was one of the first coaches to introduce himself. However, MU wasn’t among the first group of schools — Arizona State, Creighton, Indiana, Texas Tech, Oregon — whose head coaches conducted in-person meetings in the days after he received his release.

“I think Mizzou may be out of the picture,” Mooney texted on April 10. “I haven’t heard from the head coach.”

NCAA Basketball: South Dakota at Gonzaga
South Dakota guard Matt Mooney ruled out Missouri last week.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

All the while, many guards Mizzou might find appealing have narrowed their options.

  • Joe Cremo, Albany*: Creighton, Oregon, Gonzaga, Texas, and Penn State
  • Matt Mooney, South Dakota*: Creighton, Northwestern, Texas Tech, Utah State and Arizona State
  • Justin Coleman, Samford: Arizona, UAB, St Louis, NKU, Auburn, SMU, Marquette and Ohio State
  • Keyshawn Woods, Wake Forest*: could go pro; visited Ohio State, Louisville and Virginia
  • Zach Johnson, FGCU*: Arizona, Creighton, Louisville and Miami
  • Prentiss Nixon, Colorado State*: Loyola Chicago, Illinois State, SMU and Iowa State
  • Nat Dixon, Chattanooga*: Memphis, Wake Forest, Penn State; considering Nevada and Xavier
  • Khwan Fore, Richmond*: Tennessee, UAB, East Tennessee State
  • Cheddi Mosely, Boston U: Rhode Island, Wake Forest, St. Bonaventure and Delaware
  • Don Coleman, Cal*: LSU, South Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia Southern
  • Mike Cunningham, USC-Upstate*: Louisville, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulane
  • Joseph Chartouny, Fordham*: Louisville and Marquette

*indicates the player has set official visits

In every case, MU would be racing to make up ground. Again, we can’t see the recruiting board locked away in Mizzou Arena. Perhaps the staff hasn’t been sold enough on this crop of players to bring one in. Maybe they’re in a better position with Ramey than we know. We’re not trying to be prescriptive. Instead, we’re only trying to be descriptive in our analysis, and the available facts don’t paint an optimistic picture.

Are there any options left Mizzou could explore?

At the moment, I’m simply presenting you names of players. We also don’t know whether Mizzou would be interested in recruiting these guards. Lastly, these are cursory glances of each player. If the Tigers get involved, we’ll delve more deeply into their respective skillsets.

NCAA Basketball: High Point at Virginia Tech
Andre Fox
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Fox, Wing, High Point, 6-4, 185 pounds

PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
15.7 4.8 1.4 71.2 107.7 26 27.8 54.6 58.2 1.7 18.6 9.2 16.6 1.3 2.5 3.2 4.9 40.7 88-120 0.733 83-170 0.488 52-125 0.416

Tape of Fox is scant, but the metrics convey one assessment: bucket-getter. Typically, a player’s effective-field-goal percentage correlates with a quality diet of shots, and Fox fits those parameters. Per Synergy, the Panthers’ leading scorer can wreak havoc from the perimeter, averaging 1.39 points per possession and sporting a 69% eFG% on catch-and-shoots. And when he attacked closeouts, usually going left, he posted 0.97 PPP.

As a secondary handler, there are question marks. During pick-and-rolls, Fox is keen to pull-up for mid-range jumpers, while his assist rate (9.2) and efficiency in those actions (0.79 PPP) leave a little to be desired. However, Fox values the ball, and his statistical profile hints that he’s a reliable defender and a stellar on the defensive glass (22% DR%).

Upon arrival at his alma mater, new coach Tubby Smith tried to block Fox’s exit, only to — not a surprise — relent three days later. As of early April, though, there wasn’t a feeding frenzy for his services.

Considering: Delaware, Louisiana Tech, Miami and Nevada

Nico Clareth, Wing, Siena, 6-5, 195 pounds

PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
15.1 3.4 1.8 30 96.5 32.2 35.1 46.3 52.2 2.7 12.5 17.4 20.9 2 1.8 5.2 5.2 31.8 52-60 0.867 38-100 0.38 33-89 0.371
Only played 15 games in 2017-18

Productivity and turbulence defined Clareth’s two-and-a-half seasons with the Saints, ending with a mutual decision to part ways in January. (Granted, coach Jimmy Patsos resigned last week amid an internal investigation of alleged abusive conduct and financial improprieties.)

Clareth cuts the figure of a volume scorer and inconsistent defender. On film, there are plenty of clips where he comes off and buries a jumper, but his advanced metrics erode the idea he’s reliable catch-and-shoot threat (40.0 eFG%) on the wing. His mechanics — a habit of fading away, a leg kick and a high shot load — paired with a tendency to elevate slowly allows a trailing defender the chance to contest an otherwise clean look.

Defensively, he grades out poorly (1.02 PPP allowed) in Synergy, and he’s slightly foul prone. On top of that, you’re not getting a wing that goes to the glass consistently. Clareth’s productivity might draw a look, but he won’t tick off a lot of boxes on Martin’s desired list of attributes.

Considering: There have been no reports of schools trying to bring Clareth into the fold.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Florida International
Eric Lockett
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Lockett, Wing, FIU, 6-5, 200 pounds

PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
14.2 6.5 3.1 92.4 101.3 21.5 22.2 48.2 51.5 3.7 15.6 16.8 15 1.2 1.7 2.5 3.1 28.9 74-103 0.718 154-316 0.487 12-41 0.293

Again, we have to let stats speak for us, and they scream for you to back off Lockett and make him beat you from the perimeter. Last season, he only made 31.3 percent of his jump shots, and he was even worse on catch and shoots (25%) and beyond the arc (29%) for the Golden Panthers.

When Lockett gets moving in a straight line, he’s a force at the rim (1.28 PPP), but those opportunities are often linked with getting into transition and pushing the ball. During possessions when FIU’s offense operated against a set defense, those chances were scant. There’s evidence that opponents cheated under on pick-and-rolls involving Pickett. Almost 55 percent of those plays resulted in Lockett firing a pull-up jumper, averaging just 0.73 PPP on shots where he used the screen.

Again, it’s hard to see a fit here for Mizzou. Martin’s teams have never created turnovers in droves, putting a ceiling on how many chances Lockett would theoretically have to attack in transition. And if opponents are playing him to drive, he’s a one-dimensional threat in an offense that skews toward perimeter shooting.

Considering: Lockett was granted his release last week, and there haven’t been reports to emerge about schools potentially interested in his services.

Zaynah Robinson, PG, Norfolk State, 5-11, 180 pounds

PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
PPG RPG APG %Min ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate FTM-FTA Pct 2PM-2PA Pct 3PM-3PA Pct
13.5 3.4 4.5 85.5 106.7 21.3 23.9 44.8 49.5 1.2 8.8 27.1 12.5 0.4 2.6 2.4 3.8 30.8 89-115 0.774 83-204 0.407 56-169 0.331
Missed the 2017-18 season recurrent back spasms.

First, your Norfolk State joke is probably lame.

Second, the entire structure of this highlight reel has narrative panache.

Third, Robinson missed all of last season with a chronic back condition, one he was still treating at the time he received his release.

Robinson, a second-team All-MEAC guard, is definitely on the small side. But his assist rate (27.4) was among the top 200 nationally his junior season, and he’s able to force turnovers without fouling at a high clip.

His size doesn’t hamper his effectiveness in the two-man game. Robinson rated among the top 75 players nationally for pick-and-roll usage two years ago, and he ranked 45th (0.945 PPP) in efficiency. Despite his lack of size, he averaged 1.10 PPP on drives to the rick and — as the footage shows — is armed with a reliable floater. He’s also a solid passer out of high pick-and-rolls.

If you’re looking at Robinson, it’s as a facilitator and to push the ball on a secondary break. As you can tell from his shooting percentages, he’s not going to punish you for sagging off.

On the other end of the floor, Robinson’s lack of size and mass didn’t hinder him from being a reliable cog defensively.

Synergy Sports

Zero in on his turnover percentage on pick-and-roll and guarding players flying off screens. Not only did Robinson remain sound defensively, but he disrupted those plays and created possessions in the open floor.

Considering: No reports have emerged of schools pursuing Robinson.