This morning I posed this question (in headline form): Is Cam’Ron Fletcher trending away from Missouri?
The answer this morning is a resounding yes.
I wrote this morning:
But the best case scenario for Missouri is Fletcher getting back home and letting some local friends and trusted advisors cool his heels a little bit, enough to let Missouri get back in the picture.
I’m certainly not confident that happens, and there is likely pressure from UK to secure a spot if he wants one. Where Missouri has to wait on decisions of players like Fletcher, Kentucky can pressure them to commit or lose out on all being apart of the Wildcat family has to offer, including a long list of draft picks and deep NCAA runs.
That’s what Missouri and Cuonzo Martin are fighting against. Martin has made progress in recruiting St. Louis kids, but Fletcher and Caleb Love both present challenges he hasn’t quite had to face. And he’s facing them before the program has fully been set right. Missing the tournament last season after losing Jontay Porter and Mark Smith looked bad optically, less so for those like us who pay deeper attention. But it made five of the last six years without an NCAA trip.
When Cal came calling it was going to really difficult to overcome his sales pitch. We try to be at least a little optimistic in this space, while also being realistic.
The reality here is, Martin and Missouri spent the better part of two years working on their relationship with Fletcher. They’ve spent a lot of time in St. Louis and around the Vashon and Bradley Beal Elite programs working towards landing Fletcher. They have Fletcher’s good friend, high school and grassroots program teammate, Mario McKinney on the roster. They have an alum on the Vashon coaching staff, and one of the city’s favorite basketball sons in Martin at Missour,i and it wasn’t enough to overcome Calipari and the allure of Big Blue Nation.
For Fletcher, he’s at the premier program in the SEC and one of the five best in the country. He’s also competing for minutes on the wing with B.J. Boston, a top 10 player in the 2020 class, as well as any of the 2019 commits for the Cats who decide to stay on board past this season. Those players are #32 ranked Johnny Juzang, #23 ranked Keion Brooks, #12 ranked Kahlil Whitney, and #10 ranked Tyrese Maxey.
Meanwhile, Missouri appears to be okay on the wing moving forward with Mark Smith, Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett, and Mario McKinney. I’m not saying Fletcher wouldn’t have helped at all; he’s a really talented kid so of course he would have. But when it comes to the 2020 class, adding Fletcher and someone like Josh Christopher would have been luxuries moreso than necessities. The real need in the class is a big (Hello Davion Bradford, John Hughley and Ryan Kalkbrenner) and a lead guard (Caleb Love, and uh... really need a backup option here).
What Missouri needs to do more than anything is cleanse the palate of the program over the last 6-10 years. For far too long the program has been mostly irrelevant to bad. Aside from the 2012 and 2009 seasons, even when Missouri has made the NCAA tournament, they’ve been a forgettable seed. The KenPom era now goes back to 1997, so that’s 22 years with 11 trips and two protected seeds. Mizzou needs a NCAA return this year, and one the following year. Eventually, these seeds need to go from the 9-10 range into the 3-6 range, and be that consistently.
Cuonzo Martin was hired to win these recruiting battles and he’s had some hits and some misses early on. But he was also hired to win, and win consistently. He’s done a solid job of building the depth and talent in the roster back up to a better and more respectable level. Next step is to start winning at a high level. Until they do it’s going to be an uphill battle convincing stop recruits to turn down schools like Kentucky or North Carolina in favor of the home state Tigers.