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Cuonzo Martin is putting up a fight for his top targets

The Tigers dogged pursuit of Caleb Love and Josh Christopher is being noticed.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the bad news with Cam’Ron Fletcher picking Kentucky and leaving Cuonzo Martin and Missouri in the dust, the rest of the Tigers summer has been quiet.

But friend of the site Carrington Harrison threw a question at writer Corey Evans for his usual Twitter Tuesday roundup, and it was about Caleb Love:

Carrington’s question was innocuous enough. Love’s recruitment from the get-go has been measured, so the likelihood he bails on any of his visits is pretty low. But while Love being likely to take all of his visits wasn’t exactly news to me, there was one or two lines from his response which stood out.

Could Missouri, which has some momentum in its favor, keep things going and win out with Love? I am not willing to bet on it just yet. While Indiana and Kansas are fighting their way into the picture, Louisville and North Carolina might be the two leaders heading into September, a month that he will visit four of his finalists before completing things at KU on Oct. 13.

If you remember this piece, I pegged UNC as the favorite, with Louisville and Missouri right there along with Indiana. Kansas and Arizona were always behind in my mind. Since then, Indiana has taken commitments from two guards, likely signaling a willingness to move on from Love as they see a leadership forming. I also said on a podcast recently, and I’ll reiterate here, I’ve felt for a while Missouri was in better shape with Love than reported by many of these national outlets. It still might not mean much in the end, but I think it’s North Carolina, Louisville, Missouri and the others. Missouri is behind, but the mere fact they’re in the race is a tribute Martin and his work ethic.

When Martin took the job at Missouri, many hailed him as an elite recruiter when the reality of his past as a recruiter was more uneven. Martin has had big hits with Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jarnell Stokes, and the Porter Brothers, but he’s mainly made his living with unheralded guys he’s molded into consistent college players. But Martin is an experienced recruiter, and he knows what he’s doing.

Recently Josh Christopher announced his finalists and Missouri was in the mix again. Josh Gershon of caught up with Christopher’s father Laron and he had this to say about Missouri:

Missouri: “That’s family. My nephew (Nicodemus Christopher) is down there and we have known Cuonzo Martin for a long time now. It has been an ongoing relationship for several years. I think this journey is filled with relationships and our relationship with them is very big and important to us. Our relationship with Missouri is essential. We have a family member on the staff and the value of that is overwhelming to me.”

Recruiting is all about relationships. When Kevin Knox committed to Kentucky, his father was quoted as saying he wish they had more time to build a relationship with Cuonzo because they liked him so much. Christopher is in the position of having known Martin and many people on his staff for several years, so it’s going to be difficult to not choose the Tigers.

When you look at Christopher’s recruitment, Martin has a lot to overcome. There’s Kentucky, lurking like always, a school Josh has professed to being a dream school. There’s Arizona State offering an opportunity to play with his older brother. There’s UCLA, the home school, offering a chance to play with several close friends. But Missouri is sitting there, focused and steadfast, showing Josh and his father they can offer everything those schools are as well.

Martin knows what he’s doing. He may not win the battles this year, but he’s set up to win a lot of battles this year and in the future. It’s... refreshing.