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UMass transfer Ronnie DeGray III commits to Mizzou

The versatile combo forward isn’t a stranger to the Mizzou coaching staff and joins the Tigers after a disjointed freshman campaign for the Minutemen.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 06 UMass at Rhode Island Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Over the last month, Missouri’s retooling effort confronted a potential need: a sturdy body, particularly one with experience, to shore up depth along the front line.

UMass transfer Ronnie DeGray’s physical dimensions would seem to fit. As for his skill set? Well, MU’s about to find out.

On Wednesday, DeGray announced his commitment to the Tigers, becoming the fourth player plucked by coach Cuonzo Martin and his staff from the transfer portal this offseason. The sophomore’s pledge leaves MU with one scholarship vacancy.

In Amherst, DeGray, who checks in a 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, operated as a combo forward. However, suiting up for coach Matt McCall meant running at warp speed in a system that ranked 41st nationally for adjusted tempo, per KenPom.

Combing through DeGray’s analytic profile reinforces the idea he’s a jumbo-sized wing. During his freshman campaign, his most efficient touches came as a floor spacer (1.444 points per possession), cutter (1.357 PPP), and sprinting the wings in transition (1.308 PPP), according to Synergy tracking data.

They also back up his profile of DeGray as a prep prospect – one not entirely unfamiliar to Mizzou’s staff. In fall 2017, MU hosted him on an unofficial visit when DeGray was still playing for Chaparral High School in suburban Denver. Two years later, in August 2019, the Tigers’ staff tossed an offer DeGray’s way after he transferred to Woodstock Academy in Connecticut for a prep season.

Ultimately, though, DeGray pledged to UMass last April. With the decision, he became the seventh Woodstock alum on the roster, part of a pipeline built by assistant coach Tony Bergeron to his former stomping ground.

Making sense of his freshman campaign, where he averaged 8.7 points and 4.6 rebounds, is a tricky exercise.

UMass never managed to play more than four consecutive games in a row, seeing three COVID-19 pauses interrupt their regular season. While DeGray never tested positive, contact tracing forced him into a 10-day quarantine. When he returned, UMass was saddled with injuries to star center Tre Mitchell and starting point guard Noah Fernandes. And if that weren’t enough, a road trip to George Washington was wiped out by the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

That tumult would be brutal for a veteran roster. UMass ranked 332nd nationally in experience, per KenPom. Ultimately, the Minutemen finished 8-7, with just four games against opponents ranked in Tiers A or B of Pomeroy’s ratings.

So, with only 131 possessions to evaluate, it’s an open question how DeGray might fit into Mizzou’s rotation. How much stock should we put in 18 spot-up jumpers? Or 20 possessions where he attacked off the bounce, averaging just 0.8 PPP? Or is it more worthwhile to focus on how he capitalized on second-chance opportunities (1.31 PPP) when they presented themselves?

Mizzou might be banking on versatility. DeGray can space to the corner and is more than comfortable getting into caps and playing downhill. He also displayed a knack for bullying favorable switches in the paint. Defensively, he can guard wings and bigs, and he doesn’t look marooned when asked to play in space.

DeGray’s addition underscores two emerging trends in Mizzou’s roster-building: blurring positional lines and betting on mining undervalued talent.

Martin now has three players — DeGray, Kobe Brown, Sean Durugordon — he can toggle between the wing and combo forward positions as part of traditional or small-ball lineups. DeGray’s the third transfer from a mid-major program, along with Amari Davis and Jarron Coleman. Toss in Kansas State DaJuan Gordon, a product of press-happy Curie High School in Chicago, and all four transfer imports have spent time playing fast and in read-and-react offenses.