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|
|2018||Michael Porter Jr.||HS||3||10.0||1|
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.
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.
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.