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Creative Roster management has been the key to success for multiple coaches at Missouri

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Frank Haith and Mike Anderson blended rosters with freshmen and transfers and now Cuonzo Martin is doing the same.

Bucknell v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

We’ve spent the better part of the last month trying to figure out Mizzou and it’s place in the recruiting realm. The lifeblood of College Basketball is recruiting, and Missouri sits squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to how they have to build the program.

We know Mizzou isn’t a blue blood — the schools who can regularly attract elite talent year after year. They can be targeted with higher ranked players and have had moderate success in landing bigger fish, but largely the program has succeeded with a broad mix of players. For the full series, I’m linking below:

I think we’ve done a fair job so far of figuring out the kinds of players Missouri is landing with more regularity. But one thing I wanted to do is basically pull the last three pieces all together on one sortable chart and see what we can extrapolate from it.

But this time, instead of points per game average over the course of their career, I decided to just look at each player’s high scoring season, so we get a glimpse of each players maximum impact to the program.

High Scoring Seasons for all Mizzou Players

Year Player Method GP PPG High Years in Program
Year Player Method GP PPG High Years in Program
2001 Kareem Rush HS 84 21.1 3
2014 Jabari Brown TRANSFER 60 19.9 3
2006 Thomas Gardner HS 89 19.7 3
2012 Marcus Denmon HS 141 17.7 4
2014 Jordan Clarkson TRANSFER 35 17.5 2
2003 Rickey Paulding HS 131 17.4 4
2002 Clarence Gilbert HS 128 17.0 4
2009 DeMarre Carroll TRANSFER 70 16.6 3
2004 Arthur Johnson HS 132 16.4 4
2018 Kassius Robertson TRANSFER 33 16.3 1
2005 Linas Kleiza HS 49 16.1 2
2007 Stefhon Hannah TRANSFER 50 15.4 2
2000 Keyon Dooling HS 59 15.3 2
2019 Jordan Geist TRANSFER 97 14.8 3
2009 Leo Lyons HS 123 14.6 4
2012 Kim English HS 141 14.5 4
2002 Ricky Clemons TRANSFER 32 14.2 1
2013 Laurence Bowers HS 128 14.1 5
2013 Earnest Ross TRANSFER 69 14.0 3
2012 Ricardo Ratliffe TRANSFER 69 13.9 2
2018 Jordan Barnett TRANSFER 55 13.7 2
2012 Michael Dixon HS 101 13.5 3
2020 Dru Smith TRANSFER 31 12.7 2
2006 Jimmy McKinney HS 123 12.6 4
2013 Phil Pressey HS 99 11.9 3
2015 Johnathan Williams HS 67 11.9 2
2016 Kevin Puryear HS 128 11.8 4
2019 Mark Smith TRANSFER 43 11.4 2
2007 Matt Lawrence WALK-ON 125 11.2 4
2013 Alex Oriakhi TRANSFER 34 11.2 1
2020 Xavier PInson HS 62 11.1 2
2008 Keon Lawrence HS 62 11.0 2
2013 Keion Bell TRANSFER 32 10.7 2
2004 Travon Bryant HS 123 10.6 4
2017 Terrence Phillips HS 83 10.4 3
2005 Jason Conley TRANSFER 58 10.2 3
2007 Marshall Brown HS 122 10.1 4
2019 Jeremiah Tilmon HS 81 10.1 3
2015 Wes Clark HS 81 10.1 3
2018 Michael Porter Jr. HS 3 10.0 1
2018 Jontay Porter HS 33 9.9 2
2016 Namon Wright HS 45 9.6 2
2015 Montaque Gill-Caesar HS 27 9.1 1
2010 J.T. Tiller HS 131 8.9 4
2000 TJ Soyoye TRANSFER 64 8.8 2
2015 Keith Shamburger TRANSFER 32 8.8 1
2010 Justin Safford HS 124 8.6 4
2006 Kevin Young HS 124 8.5 4
2010 Zaire Taylor TRANSFER 72 8.1 3
2019 Javon Pickett HS 62 7.7 2
2017 Frankie Hughes HS 30 7.6 1
2016 Ryan Rosburg HS 127 7.5 4
2019 Torrence Watson HS 63 7.1 2
2007 Kalen Grimes HS 91 7.0 3
2017 K.J. Walton HS 63 6.7 2
2017 Russell Woods TRANSFER 61 6.7 2
2010 Keith Ramsey TRANSFER 72 6.4 2
2001 Wesley Stokes HS 69 6.4 2
2012 Matt Pressey TRANSFER 68 6.2 2
2016 Tramaine Isabell HS 55 6.2 2
2005 Jason Horton HS 118 5.9 4
2017 Willie Jackson HS 11 5.9 1
2020 Kobe Brown HS 30 5.8 1
2017 Cullen VanLeer HS 94 5.6 3
2013 Tony Criswell TRANSFER 59 5.2 2
2020 Mitchell Smith HS 72 5.1 4
2016 Jakeenan Gant HS 53 5.1 2
2020 Reed Nikko HS 122 4.9 4
2007 Darryl Butterfield TRANSFER 59 4.6 2
2015 Keanau Post TRANSFER 60 4.0 2
2018 Blake Harris HS 14 3.8 1
2003 Josh Kroenke HS 122 3.5 4
2010 Miguel Paul HS 69 3.5 2
2015 D'Angelo Allen HS 53 3.3 2
2014 Stefan Jankovic HS 28 3.3 2
1999 Pat Schumacher HS 54 3.1 2
2003 Najeeb Echols HS 42 3.1 2
2012 Kadeem Green HS 11 3.0 1
2012 Steve Moore HS 121 2.9 4
2020 Tray Jackson HS 26 2.9 1
2005 Jeffrey Ferguson HS 64 2.8 3
2006 Glen Dandridge HS 72 2.5 3
2013 Negus Webster-Chan HS 32 2.5 1
2000 Justin Gage WALK-ON 73 2.4 3
2007 Marcus Watkins WALK-ON 51 2.3 3
2018 Adam Wolf WALK-ON 25 2.3 4
2007 Vaidotas Volkus TRANSFER 51 2.2 2
2010 Tyler Stone HS 10 2.2 1
2011 Ricky Kreklow HS 32 2.1 1
2014 Torren Jones HS 30 2.1 1
2009 Jarrett Sutton WALK-ON 50 1.8 4
2015 Deuce Bello TRANSFER 23 1.8 2
2019 Ronnie Suggs WALK-ON 27 1.7 2
2004 Randy Pulley TRANSFER 11 1.6 1
2020 Mario McKinney HS 7 1.6 1
2020 Parker Braun WALK-ON 24 1.4 2
2019 K.J. Santos TRANSFER 20 1.3 1
2011 John Underwood HS 18 1.3 2
1999 Kenge Stevenson HS 27 1.1 3
2006 Nick Berardini WALK-ON 17 1.1 2
2020 Evan Yerkes WALK-ON 9 1.0 2
2002 Ryan Kiernan WALK-ON 28 0.9 3
1999 Matt Rowan HS 17 0.9 1
2006 James Douglass TRANSFER 17 0.9 1
2018 Brett Rau WALK-ON 16 0.9 2
2002 Duane John HS 24 0.8 1
2009 Michael Anderson WALK-ON 46 0.6 3
2005 Spencer Laurie HS 28 0.6 2
2004 Brian Dailey WALK-ON 13 0.6 1
2020 Brooks Ford WALK-ON 9 0.6 2
2020 Axel Okongo TRANSFER 8 0.6 1
2014 Shane Rector HS 24 0.5 1
2013 Danny Feldmann WALK-ON 23 0.5 2
2014 Corey Haith WALK-ON 16 0.5 2
2015 Jimmy Barton WALK-ON 12 0.5 2
2012 Andrew Jones WALK-ON 12 0.4 1
2012 Andy Rosburg WALK-ON 15 0.3 1
2001 Jake Jackson WALK-ON 6 0.2 2
2013 Dominique Bull HS 9 0.1 1
2015 Trevor Glassman WALK-ON 7 0.0 2
2000 Michael Griffin WALK-ON 7 0.0 2
2002 Rob Stewart WALK-ON 5 0.0 1
2019 Christian Guess HS 1 0.0 1
2015 Hayden Barnard WALK-ON 1 0.0 1
2018 C.J. Roberts HS 0 0.0 1
2017 Jakoby Kemp HS 0 0.0 1
2010 Keith Dewitt HS 0 0.0 0
2010 Tony Mitchell HS 0 0.0 0
2014 Cam Beidscheid TRANSFER 0 0.0 1
2015 Martavian Payne TRANSFER 0 0.0 1
2014 Zach Price TRANSFER 0 0.0 1
2021 Anton Brookshire HS -
2020 Jordan WImore HS -
2020 Drew Buggs TRANSFER -
2020 Ed Chang TRANSFER -

Now, I know not every player is going to impact the program with scoring. I think a great example is someone like J.T. Tiller, who never averaged more than 9 points per game. But there’s no question how valuable he was to the program. Or Phil Pressey, who never topped 12 ppg in his three seasons, but is the program’s all time assists leader.

But it’s still an exercise where we can get a decent picture of program impact.

A scatter shot of point output by games played shows an obvious trend; the longer guys are in the program the more likely they are to impact the program. But what I’m more interested is not just who scored the points, but who scored the points on good teams.

We’re basically trying to focus our data on the teams since Norm Stewart. It’s been 21 years since Norm retired* from coaching, and since then Missouri has had 10 tournament teams. They’ve made the NCAA tournament just 47.6% of the time.

So I looked at the top 21 scorers for the last 21 years, 12 of the top 21 came on NCAA Tournament teams, and 10 of the top 21 were transfers. Missouri made the tournament the first four years, then took a five year hiatus, then returned for 5 years before making only one tournament in the last seven years. Boy, when you type it all out like that it’s a little shocking. I think most of us remember Mizzou Basketball as something grander, or maybe just filter in the heights of the program. We all want 2009 or 2012 every year.

Mike Anderson was the architect for both of those teams

The way he constructed those rosters is a way Mizzou can be successful. A combination of developmental players, transfers, and sometimes misfits. It was also a nice arc. In 2009, the same freshmen who played bit roles on an Elite 8 team led Mizzou back to the tournament for two years before becoming one of the 5 or 10 best teams in the country as seniors.

Big 12 Basketball Tournament - Baylor v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Here were your top five leading scorers (plus the bench) in 2009:

  • Vanderbilt transfer DeMarre Carroll (16.6ppg)
  • Top 100 recruit and 4 year program player Leo Lyons (14.6ppg)
  • Walk-on turned scholarship sniper Matt Lawrence (9.2ppg)
  • Top 150 recruit and 3 year program player J.T. Tiller (8.4ppg)
  • Delaware transfer Zaire Taylor (6.7ppg)
  • Then: Fr. Kim English (6.5ppg), Fr. Marcus Denmon (6.0ppg), JUCO Jr Keith Ramsey (3.6ppg), So. Justin Safford (3.5ppg)

Here were your top five (plus the bench) leading scorers in 2012:

  • Top 150 recruit and 4 year program player Marcus Denmon (17.7ppg)
  • Top 150 recruit and 4 year program player Kim English (14.5ppg)
  • JUCO Transfer Ricard Ratliffe (13.9ppg)
  • Top 150 recruit and 3 year program player Michael Dixon (13.5ppg)
  • Top 60 recruit and 2 year program player Phil Pressey (10.3ppg)
  • Then: JUCO Jr Matt Pressey (6.2ppg), Sr. Steve Moore (2.9ppg)

Each roster utilized Junior College additions to flesh out the roster, and Anderson used the Demarre Carroll transfer as a catalyst to rebuild the program. He took existing talent on the roster in Lawrence and Lyons and mixed in a few transfers, a JUCO forward and some sound developmental players as incoming freshmen and built a 30 win team.

Anderson’s issue is he wasn’t able to break through recruiting the next two seasons and you can see that on the next two rosters. He only dipped into the JUCO ranks for Matt Pressey and Ricardo Ratliffe over the next few years, and the 2009 and 2010 freshman classes only landed two players who provided any program impact (Dixon and Pressey).

So here’s where you can point to the program struggles: the highest PPG average from a signed freshman since the 2010 recruiting class, at any point in his career, is 11.9 points by Johnathan Williams III in the 2014-15 season. He followed that scoring output by transferring to Gonzaga shortly after the season wrapped.

They’ve had just six players who signed as freshmen top double digits, and three are either still on the roster or finished their eligibility at Mizzou. This type of roster turnover has forced Mizzou coaches to get creative. In some cases it’s worked.

Frank Haith got creative looking at an empty bottom of the roster, but a strong top in the 2011-12 season, and it nearly paid off big. His transfers patched over significant holes in the roster, but his first two freshmen classes left the depth weak. Kim Anderson promised to get back to developing rosters with high school players, nearly in response to Haith's approach to transfers, and suffered by not being able to recruit good enough players, or being a good enough coach to work past it.

NCAA Basketball: Texas A&M at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

For my money, Cuonzo Martin hasn’t gotten creative enough. His first roster was full of creativity, utilizing left-over talent, infusing transfers, and a few highly touted recruits was enough to get Mizzou back into the NCAA tournament. But the recruiting approach which followed looked heavily at high school players instead of a mix. Each of the last two rosters needed a dose of more creativity, and maybe a little less risk.

Players like Christian Guess, K.J. Santos, and Axel Okongo provided virtually nothing in the 29 games they appeared in. But if there’s a reason to hope, it’s this roster. Martin’s most creative. And it all comes to a head this year (if we have a season) where nearly half the roster is a senior with expiring eligibility.

A grad transfer in Drew Buggs joins a back court with a developmental point guard looking to breakout in Xavier Pinson, plus Evansville transfer Dru Smith. Illinois transfer Mark Smith hopes to regain his shooting form and health, and there’s a front court with players who’ve been around for at least a few seasons. It may not be picture perfect, but it’s a hodgepodge roster which looks a lot like the kinds of rosters which have worked for the Tigers in more recent history.