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Gold mine or land mine, the transfer market has unearthed some Mizzou Hoops favorites

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For the better part of the Post-Norm era, the transfer market has provided Missouri the boost it’s needed.

NCAA Basketball: Stephen F. Austin at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The last few weeks we’ve been exploring Mizzou Basketball recruiting from a more historical perspective. It’s proven the hit and mostly miss nature of prep recruiting.

Everyone wants to land that highly touted prospect out of high school, but developmental timelines for players aged 17-22 vary and it’s easier to miss on the talent of a 17 year old than a player a few years older. So when you look through recent Missouri history and single out the good times versus the bad ones, you might notice the more mixed bag of player acquisition.

There are basically four ways to sign a player to your roster:

  • High School — signing a player out of high school or prep school with four years of eligibility
  • 4-year Transfer — traditionally a ‘Sit-out’ transfer, these players have already used up eligibility at a four year school and are transferring to another four year school
  • Junior College Transfer — A player who either didn’t qualify academically or left another 4 year to play at a 2 year Junior College.
  • Graduate Transfer — Any player who had graduated from their previous school, thus making them immediately eligible after transferring.

Since 1998, Missouri has signed 35 transfers and 74 freshmen. 13 of of the freshmen, or 17% of those, averaged more than 10 points per game over the course of 1,243 games. Meanwhile, with just 35 transfers, Mizzou had landed the same number - 13 players - who’ve averaged more than 10 points per game over the course of 613 games.

So let’s take a look at the collection of talent Missouri’s assembled through transfer:

Missouri Basketball Transfers Since 1998

Year Signed Period Player Method GP PPG Total Years Played
Year Signed Period Player Method GP PPG Total Years Played
2012 Spring Jordan Clarkson Transfer 35 17.5 612 1
2012 Spring Jabari Brown Transfer 60 17.3 1040 2
2017 Spring Kassius Robertson Grad 33 16.3 537 1
2006 Spring Stefhon Hannah JUCO 50 15.1 756 2
2006 Spring DeMarre Carroll Transfer 70 14.9 1046 2
2002 Spring Ricky Clemons JUCO 32 14.2 455 1
2015 Mid-year Jordan Barnett Transfer 55 13.1 720 2
2018 Spring Dru Smith Transfer 31 12.7 393 1
2010 Spring Ricardo Ratliffe JUCO 69 12.3 847 2
2011 Spring Earnest Ross Transfer 69 12.2 841 2
2012 Spring Alex Oriakhi Grad 34 11.2 382 1
2011 Spring Keion Bell Transfer 32 10.7 342 1
2018 Spring Mark Smith Transfer 43 10.6 456 2
2016 Spring Jordan Geist JUCO 97 9.7 942 3
2004 Mid-year Jason Conley Transfer 58 9.1 527 2
2014 Spring Keith Shamburger Grad 32 8.8 280 1
1999 Spring TJ Soyoye JUCO 64 7.8 501 2
2007 Spring Zaire Taylor Transfer 72 7.4 532 2
2010 Spring Matt Pressey JUCO 68 6.0 406 2
2008 Spring Keith Ramsey JUCO 72 4.9 354 2
2015 Spring Russell Woods JUCO 61 4.8 293 2
2012 Spring Tony Criswell JUCO 59 4.5 268 2
2006 Spring Darryl Butterfield JUCO 59 4.3 253 2
2013 Spring Keanau Post JUCO 60 2.8 165 2
2006 Spring Vaidotas Volkus JUCO 51 2.2 111 2
2013 Spring Deuce Bello Transfer 23 1.8 41 1
2003 Spring Randy Pulley JUCO 11 1.6 18 1
2017 Fall K.J. Santos JUCO 20 1.3 25 1
2005 Spring James Douglass JUCO 17 0.9 15 1
2019 Spring Axel Okongo JUCO 8 0.6 5 1
2015 Spring Martavian Payne JUCO 0 0.0 0 1
2013 Spring Zach Price Transfer 0 0.0 0 0
2013 Mid-year Cam Beidscheid Transfer 0 0.0 0 0
2020 Spring Drew Buggs Grad
2020 Spring Ed Chang JUCO

It seems clear that early on there was very little effort made towards pursuing transfers, which makes sense. Quin Snyder came from Duke, and it was with extreme rarity the Blue Devils dipped into any sort of transfer. It wasn’t until he took Ricky Clemons, in an effort to solve his point guard problems, that Snyder finally dipped into the JUCO ranks.

I included Tajudeen Soyoye on the list because he played for Snyder, but he did originally commit to Norm Stewart, so his production wasn’t included when we broke down the numbers by coach below. Like with the freshmen, I wanted to give credit to the coach who originally attracted the student-athlete to Missouri.

We’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks looking at the athletes who were signed as freshmen, and Missouri’s struggles with developing and retaining those players. Of the 69 freshmen signed since Norm Stewart retired* just 18 (or 26%) finished their eligibility at Missouri, and just three players since four of the 5-man 2008 class spent four years at Missouri.

You can include 6 NBA draft departures (Kareem Rush, Linas Kleiza, Thomas Gardner, Phil Pressey, Michael Porter Jr, Jontay Porter) to soften that number to 34% of signed freshmen.

Since that 2008 class, Missouri has signed 24 transfers, 14 of which finished their eligibility with Mizzou. Four still have the opportunity to finish their eligibility at Mizzou (I excluded players who declared and left for the NBA draft), which means 75%, or three out of every four transfers, finishes their eligibility at Mizzou.

So if you’re hitting on 13 of your High School recruits, and 34 of your transfers... you might get some uneven results.

Here’s the breakdown by coach:

Freshmen vs. Transfers

Coach Quin Snyder Mike Anderson Frank Haith Kim Anderson Cuonzo Martin Total
Coach Quin Snyder Mike Anderson Frank Haith Kim Anderson Cuonzo Martin Total
Years Active 1999-2006 2006-2011 2011-2014 2014-2017 2017-current 1999-current
Total Freshmen Signed 20 15 10 13 11 69
Total Seasons Played 62 37 18 27 16 160
Total Points Scored 14092 8782 2465 4247 2763 32349
Pts Per Player 704.6 585.5 246.5 326.7 251.2 468.8
Total Transfers Signed 5 8 10 5 5 33
Total Seasons Played 7 16 12 9 6 50
Total Points Scored 1516 4305 3691 2235 1416 13163
Pts Per Player 303.2 538.1 369.1 447.0 283.2 398.9

What I think is cool about this exercise is how Missouri has largely used the transfer market to subsidize the program after the failures with high school talent, and it’s spanned across multiple coaches.

After Haith left, many Missouri fans made the argument that his embrace of transfers led to their disinterest in the program. But Haith needed to go with transfers early to bridge the gap between the previously mentioned 2008 class and the subsequent 2009, 2010, and 2011 classes which... weren’t chock full of talent.

2009, 2010 & 2011 Classes (freshmen):

  • Phil Pressey
  • Kadeem Green
  • Ricky Kreklow
  • Tony Mitchell
  • Michael Dixon
  • John Underwood
  • Tyler Stone
  • Keith Dewitt

Looking at that list you could basically reduce it to Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon. Three classes and two players, so they needed to supplement with transfers. So Mike Anderson and Frank Haith followed up with:

  • Matt Pressey
  • Ricardo Ratliffe
  • Keion Bell
  • Earnest Ross
  • Tony Criswell
  • Alex Oriakhi
  • Jabari Brown
  • Jordan Clarkson

That’s a hefty list.

Things went off the rails a bit from there with Cam Beidschied and Zach Price, neither of whom saw the floor at Missouri. Then Deuce Bello and Keanau Post who were mostly unproductive.

Nearly half of the transfers taken at Mizzou have produced more than 8 points per game. And looking at roster-building talents like Clarkson and Brown, plus Kassius Roberson, Jordan Barnett, Dru Smith, and Demarre Carroll, it’s easy to see the kind of market which exists now for players who can make a difference in your program.

More often than not, Mizzou’s best players have been transfers

Kentucky at Missouri Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images

In the 14 seasons since Mike Anderson signed on to coach Missouri, seven of those seasons had a leading scorer who transferred into the University. FIVE of those seven were players signed in the 2008 class. For some reason that class keeps coming up. So let’s address it.

Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Laurence Bowers, Steve Moore, Miguel Paul

Obviously, this class was an important one. Kevin Puryear and Johnathan Williams III are the only other high-school-signed players to lead the team in scoring who was not a member of the 2008 class, or a transfer. Kim English did it, Laurence Bowers did it, Marcus Denmon did it twice.

But Jordan Geist, Kassius Robertson, Dru Smith, DeMarre Carroll, Stepfon Hannah, and Jabari Brown all transferred and all had a major impact. And that doesn’t mention Ratliffe, Clarkson, Mark Smith, Earnest Ross, and others.

The role of the transfer is an important one. Mizzou’s miraculous 2008 season doesn’t happen without DeMarre Carroll, and the 2012 season doesn’t happen without Ricardo Ratliffe.

In the last two weeks I’ve spent multiple columns talking about how Mizzou needs to improve its high school recruiting. Or at least improve its hit rate on the players it signs out of high school. But they also need to continue to utilize the transfer market because it can be mined for gold.

When you’re in high school, it’s easy to be wowed by a recruiting pitch from a great salesman. I think when you consider the current head coach at Missouri and all his positive personality traits, salesman isn’t one of them. Martin is a truth-sayer. He’s honest to a fault. So saying something like, “You’re going to have to earn your minutes” may not connect with a high school player who has always been the best guy on his team... it will resonate with a highly-rated transfer who feels a bit jilted by the snake oil he tried to buy into in his first stop.

I’m not advocating for Martin to give up on high school recruiting, but transfers are much more transactional. Players are more likely to understand the business a little more and make decisions which are less emotional. It’s easy to get excited about being recruited and getting all the smoke blown... eh... in your face. Which is why I think Martin is able to resonate more and find good footing in the transfer market. And not just for Martin but it makes a lot of sense for Mizzou.