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Missouri might be trending with Caleb Love after his official visit

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Cuonzo Martin’s approach—steady and deliberate—lacks flash, but it appears to have gained traction. The national media seems to be catching up.

Snapchat - c.loveupnow

If you’re a frequent reader of articles on Missouri basketball recruiting, you might be familiar with five-star combo guard Caleb Love. We’ve covered him a little here in the past:

This doesn’t even encompass all of the articles covering Love and his recruitment.

As a younger player, Love wasn’t an automatic five-star talent. He cracked the rankings but started out closer to the bottom than the top. I’d heard about Love and knew Missouri was recruiting him during his sophomore season at CBC. But it was when I watched him go toe-to-toe against Courtney Ramey, a top-50 talent from Webster Groves, that I knew his ceiling was nearly unlimited.

I was also enamored enough to think the Tigers should go all in. Ironically enough, Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was at that game, watching Love emerge as he pursued Ramey. He saw what I did. The only problem would be the inevitable ascent up the charts and the resulting suitors tied with it.

Eventually, Kansas, North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville, Duke, Kentucky... all of them came knocking. The focus around Love’s recruitment shifted away from the regional schools like Missouri, Illinois, Kansas State or Iowa.

As Love’s recruitment gained steam, pessimism about Missouri’s chances of keeping him home grew.

So it was easy to feel the pessimism around Love and Missouri about a year ago at this time. Still, slowly and steadily, Martin persisted. He’s an experienced recruiter and knows how to put together a plan. This summer, even as Cam’Ron Fletcher began to trend away from MU, Martin’s pitch kept him in the game with Love.

In August, I said I felt the Tigers were in good shape, which at the time flew in the face of traditional outlets at the time.

When it comes to recruiting, understanding how it all works is both easy and also incredibly complex. It’s not about what makes sense, it’s about information and it’s about deciphering the code. It’s why the national guys are who they are. They are almost all the most informed by talking to coaching staffs, parents, handlers, grassroots coaches, and more. But biases always tend to play a role.

If a blue blood program offers, they’re automatically billed as a top contender. And in most cases, it’s true. Even as a kid I grew up dreaming of playing at North Carolina, not Missouri. So I get it when that’s the general feeling in a recruitment.

But Caleb Love and his approach has always been different. When he and his parents released the visit dates, I noted how none of the visits lined up with prominent on-campus events. The family was purposefully skipping big football dates and huge basketball events to take the emotion and the circus out of the equation as much as you can for an official visit.

Then Love arrived in Columbia campus for his visit. If you followed along on Snapchat or Instagram, you noticed a trend. Martin was laser-like focused on setting a tone. He had Love matched up with St. Louis area kids just like him— Javon Pickett, Torrence Watson, Mark Smith. He focused on team activities, inviting the team over to the Martin compound for some swimming and their in-ground trampoline. He wasn’t trying to blow Caleb away with the best Mizzou had to offer. The focus was different: it was opportunity, it was team, it was family.

The pitch has worked, and the national mood has moved.

Here’s the thing, listing Mizzou is looking to be far more than a favor and based on what I’ve been hearing the last few weeks, Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers are emerging as a very legitimate contender to land Love. Love was in Columbia over the weekend and the early buzz is that Martin and his staff continued to build on the momentum they’ve been gaining.

Now, I’m not ready to proclaim the Tigers a favorite over the two that have seemed to be in the best position for a while – North Carolina and Louisville – but I do think it’s time we stop poo-pooing any thought that Love could stay local and play for his home state program.

That was Rivals analyst Eric Bossi. I respect Eric a lot, he’s knowledgeable and a good scout. He’s also plugged in.

Missouri may not win this race, but it’s been run to near perfection. It took a recruit who could look past the flash of the royal blooded schools and see what each were actually offering. I still think UNC is likely the leader at this point, but Martin has been steadfast in his process and that level of competency is nice to watch. If he doesn’t break through with Love, he’s bound to break through soon.

UPDATE:

We mentioned this in our piece last week:

But surprisingly enough the Indiana Hoosiers haven’t been shy about taking some more developmental players at Love’s position, with a current class of three 4-star players all on the perimeter. I’m certain Archie Miller would still take Love if he wanted to commit, but taking players at a similar position is usually a sign the program understands they may not be in the lead.

After official visits, it’s always important to watch the movement to really gauge how it went. All officials go well, but what matters is how it affected the recruitment of the player. Love cancelling his IU visit — which shouldn’t surprise anyone at Indiana considering their movement over the last few weeks — and moving his KU visit means it went well enough with Missouri that they moved ahead of others on the list. It wouldn’t completely surprise me if the KU visit doesn’t get rescheduled, and Love continues on with his UNC and Louisville visits and that’s your three.

So I’ll say it again, I think Missouri is squarely in this picture, and do not pay attention to what the Tigers are doing at this point. Pay attention to Louisville and North Carolina. Who they pursue and bring to campus in the next few weeks could hint at the Tigers fortunes with Love.