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Mario McKinney Jr. is the first Step in putting together the 2019 class

There’s more to go still, but adding McKinney continues Cuonzo Martin’s strong showing in St. Louis.

In 2004 Missouri basketball coach secured the commitment and subsequent signing of Hazelwood Central star Kalen Grimes. Grimes was a four-star recruit,a top-150 player and the last of his kind, a St. Louis area basketball player who was a top 150 player who committed to play basketball out of high school for Missouri. Until Cuonzo Martin signed up to coach the Tigers.

Since taking over for Kim Anderson, Martin has established as much of a foothold on the east side of the state and just beyond as can be expected of anyone. Before Jeremiah Tilmon signed with Missouri as a top-50 prospect in the class of 2017, only two players from St. Louis had signed with the Tigers out of high school. They were Ryan Rosburg and Cullen VanLeer.

Martin has since added Tilmon, a four-star wing in Torrence Watson, and now four-star 2019 recruit Mario McKinney. I’d say he’s off to a good start.

mizzou basketball scholarship count 9-24-2018

If everything remains static on the roster, Missouri now has two scholarships left for the remainder of the class.

McKinney is the right replacement for Jordan Geist, who exhausts his eligibility this year. Both are excitable combo guards. Kevin Puryear is leaving as well, and the only real option left on the table is E.J. Liddell.

After Liddell, the pickings get slim in a hurry and even if the Tigers are fortunate enough to land Liddell there isn’t a specific guy behind him to make a case for the last spot. But there’s plenty of room and time to find the right fit for spot number 13 before the season starts next season.

Adding McKinney increases the athleticism of the roster significantly

I highly encourage you to read Matt’s piece from last night:

Despite his stature, McKinney might be one of the most athletic guard prospects in his class. And while he might not have the floor game to operate as a lead guard, his dribble is more than developed enough to operate as a secondary ball handler, which explains why programs that play at a fast clip such as Auburn and VCU tried to get in the mix.

There are real flaws in McKinney’s game, but you cannot look away from him when he’s on the floor. As a high-level basketball coach, you want to look for guys who can make plays, and Mario McKinney is a playmaker. Just watch:

It’s borderline ridiculous. He’s an unreal athlete who can be inserted at any time of the game to inject energy and enthusiasm, and he’s going to become a crowd favorite because of the way he’s able to make plays.

Because of the flaws in his game, McKinney might not be ready for heavy minutes from the get-go, but he’s going to be more than a valuable piece with his effort and intensity in the one area we know Cuonzo cares about...on defense.

With McKinney joining the roster next season when Mark Smith and Dru Smith are eligible to play the pressure on him is off. There are more experienced hands on deck and McKinney can do what he does best, get on the floor and play with his hair on fire.

Looking at the depth chart, it’s even more obvious they can ease McKinney in to the mix.

There’s exciting talent on the perimeter, and even next year all but one of the seven guys in those spots would be either a freshman or a sophomore.

The next big move is going to be what happens with E.J. Liddell. If Cuonzo Martin can reel in this one last piece, he has to feel pretty incredible about the direction of the program. He’s got guys, his guys, from his town filling out the roster. He’s got athletes and competitive defenders and guys with the ability to make plays. And it’s a lot of youth. Which means they can continue to grow together over the next few years.

But it’s also a roster which could make a lot of noise in the SEC in short order.