You can all take a breath now. Almost a month after his hiring and five commitments, coach Dennis Gates has his point guard.
Missouri earned a commitment from Sean East, who earned JUCO Player of the Year Honors at John A. Logan College. The pledge also gives the Tigers the top two prospects in JUCORecruiting.com’s rankings for the 2022 class. On paper, East, who also visited BYU and South Florida, also claimed the Tigers’ last scholarship slot — for now.
East further reinforces the idea that Gates’ deep ties to the junior-college market are a potential boon. In March, it netted Mohamed Diarra, who sits atop the JUCO rankings and provides MU a prospect with a modern post player’s physical profile and toolkit.
(It also goes beyond the roster, too. For several weeks, it’s been a poorly kept secret that Logan coach Kyle Smithpeters is a strong possibility to round out Gates’ coaching staff.)
But unlike Diarra, who is a long-term play, East will be expected to make a quick impression at fifth stop in as many seasons. At Logan, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard put up 20.9 points per game, eclipsing 30 points five times, and handed out 5.7 assists for the Volunteers. That output wasn't dependent on high volume either, The Louisville native finished with a 59.1 effective-field-goal percentage and only 28.1 percent of his shots came from behind the arc. Toss in a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, and you can see why his services were in demand.
How does that translate to the SEC level?
Well, East’s not unfamiliar with the Division-I ranks. He started his career at UMass before hopping to Bradley, starting 40 games along the way. Before transferring to Logan, East averaged 9.0 points on 42.4 percent shooting for the Braves.
East hardly rode the pine those seasons. He saw 28.1 minutes and sported 21.1 percent usage—the numbers you see from a starter. He also played 25 games against teams that occupied spots in the KenPom top-100, including a four-point outing in a 54-53 loss the Tigers handed to Bradley two seasons ago.
Sean East | Performance vs. KenPom Top-100
East’s scoring volume (8.6 ppg) didn’t dip dramatically in those games, but his shooting declined to 36.6 percent, including 27 percent from behind the arc. What’s potentially heartening is that East’s jumper steadily improved each season, rising to 38 percent from 26.5 as a sophomore, per Synergy Sports tracking data. Then at Logan, he canned 40.1 percent of 3-balls.
The context of those shots is also important. Over his first two seasons, roughly 44 percent of East’s jumpers came after pulling up in a pick-and-roll, attempts that yielded 0.99 points per possession, according to Synergy. His passes in those ball screens netted 0.913 PPP, an efficiency that’s middle of the pack for Division I.
East turns 23 in November and potentially approaching a plateau in his developmental curve. When he turns up this summer, the environment won’t be foreign to him. And Mizzou, which only has East St. Louis’ Christian joins on the board, will be counting on a quick acclimation. What’ll be interesting, too, is whether Gates and his staff tweak an offense that steadily relied less on ball screens at Cleveland State to ramp up its pick-and-roll volume.
Ultimately, any valuation of East hinges on the prism used to view his stopover at Logan. An optimist would point to steady improvement as a shooter and efficient distribution. Meanwhile, Smithpeters’ program has also churned out quality prospects in recent seasons.
Yet a pessimist would note that most of his peers are 18 or 19, and an even smaller group has transferred down from D1. And this isn’t meant as a slight to Logan, but its regional peers aren’t on the same level that you’d see in places like Texas or Florida.
On top of that, East’s two mid-major season’s aren’t a microscopic sample. Two programs gave him ample opportunities to carve out a major role, and East responded with pedestrian numbers. So, did East put all the pieces together? Or did the caliber of competition let East fatten up his stat line?
Maybe the reality settles somewhere in the middle.
If anything, Gates’ rosters have embodied a collective approach by going up to 10 deep and spreading the burden equally. Amari Davis is still around as a mid-range threat. Moving Jarron Coleman off the ball as a floor-spacer might spur improvement. Tre Gomillion proved a jack of all trades for Gates at CSU. And Noah Carter is a high-IQ connector who inverts the floor and exploits mismatches. And incoming freshman Aidan Shaw’s shown he can be a threat as a cutter and running the floor in transition. Of course, this also assumes there’s no more outbound traffic from the roster.
If East can provide crafty scoring off the bounce, make sound reads, and keep the offense on schedule, it will still represent a critical step forward from where MU found itself last season.
Let’s Meet Sean East
- From: Louisville, Ky.
- Previous Schools: UMass, Bradley, John A. Logan College
- Position: Point Guard
- Ht/Wt: 6-3/185
What stands out is how easily East shifts gears and manipulates pace. Against closeouts, he acts decisively off the catch but remains under control enough to make a good choice after one dribble – attack the front of the rim, exploit a retreating defender with a floater, or pump the brakes for a pull-up.
That feel is necessary because East’s not climbing the ladder and putting a dunk on a guy’s head. Instead, he’s more likely to alter the release point and angle on a floater, which he can use with both hands off the glass. And just as important, East showed he could punish defenders dipping under a ball screen by utilizing a dribble to step into a jumper.
East went for 43 points this month against Harcum College, and it’s a highlight reel of East’s finishing package, especially with his left hand.
As for his shooting mechanics, they appear pretty sound. East does his work early – establishing his base, hands up, knees bent. Assuming a pass hits his shot pocket, the load-up isn’t starting low. He remains compact, and his motion is fluid. Depending on the angle, it looks like he’ll push the ball at times, but that’s a minor quibble.
Gauging East’s decision-making and defense is a more challenging task. It’d be nice to see how East works through the decision tree as a passer, whether in an early drag pick-and-roll, middle pick-and-roll against a set defense, or turning the corner out of a handoff at the elbow. And while we could look at various defensive metrics, they’re not quite as telling as watching tape.
At a minimum, East owns some diversity as a pick-and-roll operator, appears to have improved shooting off the catch, and can facilitate just as quickly.