There’s no mistaking Mizzou Basketball fans’ overall apathy when it comes to Mizzou basketball recruiting. It’s been difficult for Cuonzo Martin and his staff to fully break through after the initial 2017 class which brought 5 highly rated players to the roster as freshmen. Since that famed 2017 class, Martin and the Tigers have signed just one top 100 player according to the 247sports composite— the 86th ranked Tray Jackson in 2019.
Each year, the recruiting challenges have popped up and Martin has run into whatever interference which can be explained away via whatever set of extenuating circumstances.
But the facts of the matter is Martin hasn’t gotten it done. Whether it was going up against blue bloods like North Carolina or Kentucky, or letting your prize recruit slip to Ohio State, it seems each year the top guys on Martin’s wish list have chosen other destinations.
When you’re Missouri, this is going to happen more than you want it to... any time there’s an elite player within your grasp, you’re going to be competing with more storied programs and hall of fame coaches with National Championships under their belt... it’s understandable to lose players to NBA factories. But in year five, Mizzou’s biggest recruiting win was flipping Jackson from his commitment to Minnesota. They’ve otherwise struck out when going head to head for every other elite player they’ve pursued.
And this is not to disparage the players they’ve gotten. Martin has recruited well enough outside of the top 100 players to be competitive and make two NCAA tournaments. But at some point you have to win those battles.
2022 is the year you hope to see those fortunes change
The interesting part about this offseason is Missouri again does not need to add a bunch of bodies. Last fall they signed five players, and in the spring they added four more. Only Javon Pickett is slated to graduate next year, so with one open scholarship at the moment that leaves two spots for the Tigers to fill. And already the visits are lining up.
After Mark Mitchell’s visit, Missouri has also lined up an official visit from 4-star PG Chandler Jackson for June 28th through the 30th. Jackson has been a primary target for the Tigers since extending an offer earlier in the spring. I don’t think they’ll be done there either after recently extending an offer to Fort Zumwalt North big man Connor Turnbull, along with a few other unofficial visits from some likely backup options.
But no player has quite been on the board any longer than Blue Valley High School product Aidan Shaw. Shaw has long been a projected high major wing with serious upside and NBA potential. He’s long and athletic and a menace defensively with an offensive skillset which has slowly rounded into shape. And since he’s been able to be ranked, Shaw has been a top 100 level player.
If there’s good news for the Tigers, it’s that the pandemic hasn’t allowed in person recruiting and it hasn’t allowed much movement in the rankings. With Caleb Love, Mizzou was in great shape but Love simply played up his rankings and into the McDonald’s All American range, and played himself right out of Missouri’s grasp. So far that hasn’t happened with Shaw.
Mizzou’s competition for the athletic wing is Oklahoma State, Kansas, Maryland, and Iowa. KU obviously would be a concern but they’ve already received a commitment from top 40 wing Grady Dick, and are recruiting other wings... while Mizzou has shown they are focused on Mitchell... and Shaw.
Today, Aidan Shaw begins his visit at Missouri.
He’s been noted as saying he wants to have his recruitment wrapped up before school starts back up. So this is Martin’s chance to reel in the kind of player who can help elevate the program from a scrappy middling SEC forgotten about, to one which will routinely be picked in the top 6 in preseason polls.
If you’ve read my thoughts long enough you’ll know that I never refer to any player as a “must have” or “must get” because there is no such thing. If you miss on one guy, it’s never going to make or break a program.
But there is a such thing as accumulation. The losses add up. You don’t need to land ALL your top guys but you do need to land SOME of them.
From that standpoint, Aidan Shaw is important for Missouri. Without him, the program will survive, and probably win a similar amount of games in the next few years... mostly because Cuonzo Martin has proven himself to be a competent head coach. But if you’re talking about what ‘Zo wants the program to be, and what fans want the program to be, the recruiting wins need to start happening and Shaw could be the opening salvo for what could be a step forward.
It starts today.
We’ll see if this is the first day of the next phase of Mizzou Basketball, or just another day in a long line of the Mizzou Basketball program just coming up short.