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What’s left on Mizzou’s plate as the 2024 recruiting cycle winds down?

Reeling in five-star forward Jayden Quaintance is a clear priority, but the Tigers’ contingency plans might mean turning to the portal next spring to inject experience.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Missouri Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Once the calendar turns to October, the home stretch of a recruiting cycle comes into view.

The past week has only reinforced that notion, too.

Missouri picked up its fifth pledge of the cycle when Trent Burns announced his commitment to the Tigers over the weekend. Meanwhile, the rest of the Tigers’ board has started to empty. Bishop Boswell and Ryan Jones are headed elsewhere, and Chase McCarty culled coach Dennis Gates’ program from his final group.

With a month left until signing day, it’s probably worth taking stock of how the Tigers might put a bow on what’s arguably shaping up to be the program’s best crop of talent since it arrived in the SEC a decade ago.

Let’s get into it.

Jayden Quaintance grabs a rebound during a U.S. victory against Uruguay in pool play of the FIBA U16 Americas Championship on June 9.
FIBA

What remains on Mizzou’s to-do list?

It’s all of one item. It’s obvious, too: lock up five-star prospect Jayden Quaintance.

Bold, I know.

How soon that might occur isn’t clear. Quaintance and his camp are still weighing their options, and we don’t know when their deadline for a decision might arrive. But you get to set the agenda when you’re the No. 9 prospect. At the moment, it calls for a pair of visits to Cincinnati and Kentucky later this month.

Every indication we’ve received is MU feels confident about where it stands, but the Tigers haven’t severed a chase pack headed by UK and the G League Ignite. The Tigers’ pitch does have resonance, but it’s not off base to suggest that financial imperatives hold some sway. The Ignite can offer up to $500,000 in annual compensation, but a source indicated to Rock M Nation that the Wildcats might have to keep their powder dry to fund the pursuit of five-star guard Boogie Fland.

Only two prospects — combo guard Travis Perry and wing Darrion Sutton — remain open-minded about their suitors. However, MU has already filled vacancies at their respective positions.

There’s one vacancy. There’s one name. Now comes the waiting as Quaintance deliberates.

What’s the ceiling for this 2024 class?

Grab screenshots with Mizzou’s name perched atop the national rankings while you can.

Even if Quaintance does pick MU, the program’s projected score (68.63) would likely slot it somewhere between third and fifth in the final ranking. (It’s also in the same ballpark as Cuonzo Martin’s debut class in 2017.) But if he heads elsewhere, the Tigers’ mark (66.59) would be around sixth or seventh.

Typical Top-10 Classes | 2011-2023

Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range Missouri (2024)
Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range Missouri (2024)
Class Score 67.51 (1.87) 67.44 65.64 to 69.38 66.59
Recruit Rating 96.49 (1.94) 96.64 94.55-98.43 96.75
Count 5.1 (1.2) 5 3.9 to 6.3 5
n=130 Data Source: 247Sports

But as you can tell, Mizzou could stand down its pursuit of Quaintance and still rest assured it’s put together one of the nation’s best groups this cycle. It’s also a class that rivals the program’s best in the past 25 years.

Rankings are nice. But what is Quaintance's on-court impact?

Recent history suggests the hybrid forward would arrive as a plug-and-play starter.

In the past two seasons, top-15 recruits logged an average of 1,242 possessions on the floor during their freshmen season, according to Evan Miyakawa’s data. Those players also had a usage rate typical for a significant contributor to the lineup. Evan Miya’s Bayesian Performance Rating, which accounts for defensive impact, also hints at a prominent role. The average for these elite freshmen is 3.70.

Measuring Impact | Top-15 Recruits | 2021-22 and 2022-23

Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range
Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range
USG% 22.8 (5.2) 22.8 17.6 to 28.0
Possessions 1241.9 (393.7) 1325.0 931.3 to 1718.7
BPR 3.70 (1.8) 3.22 1.90 to 5.50
Net Impact 0.27 (13.16) 2.30 -12.89 to 13.43
N=27 Data Sources: Sports Reference, evanmiya.com, Pivot Analysis

Fittingly, those averages for BPR and floor time closely mirror the marks posted by Noah Carter — the veteran that Quaintance would theoretically replace in the starting five.

Now, Quaintance’s case comes with a critical caveat.

The 6-foot-9 forward is young for his class. Like, really young. He only turned 16 at the beginning of July, and by moving into the 2024 class, he’s assured that his 17th birthday will coincide with moving into a college dorm. Age gaps are familiar for Quaintance, who spent most of the past year facing off against competition that was two or three years older. Still, that will only widen substantially next season.

Having watched Quaintance play 18 games, I’d endorse the early assessments that have him making an impact on the defensive end of the floor early on. Quaintance’s frame is rugged enough to jostle inside, but he has the agility and foot speed to switch seamlessly and guard all five positions. His timing off the floor — and a plus-6 wingspan — makes him a potentially elite rim protector.

Offensively, Quaintance only flashes right now. Still, the glimpses make you giddy:

  • Grabbing a board and kickstarting a secondary break
  • Facing up and driving past slower-footed big men
  • Spacing the floor as a catch-and-shoot threat

However, his jumper demands more consistency (24.3 3FG%), and for all his physical gifts, he can struggle to convert rim finishes. His success with the U.S. national team at a FIBA U16 tournament in July with Team Loaded came as a safety valve in the short corner and foraging for stick backs.

But it’ll take time to stitch those pieces together.

That’s something he’ll have plenty of, though.

No matter where Quaintance opts to play, it will be another two years before he’s eligible for the NBA draft. In the near term, MU might acquire an elite defender and athletic play finisher and keep him around long enough to see him consistently knock down jumpers and facilitate offense from the same spots where Kobe Brown wreaked havoc.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal
Lyon County’s Travis Perry tries to drive around Great Crossing’s Junius Burrell as Great Crossing head coach Steve Page shouts from the sidelines during the King of the Bluegrass tournament in Fairdale on Dec. 19, 2022.
Matt Stone/The Louisville Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Are there alternate plans if Quaintance goes elsewhere?

Probably not.

There’s a month until signing day, and — barring any dramatic twists — Quaintance wouldn’t be in a position to reveal his intentions until the end of October. That would leave a week until signing day. At the same time, most prospects are starting to wrap up the process.

Mizzou’s staff is not only scaling up the program’s ambitions, it’s also working at a quicker clip than most of its competitors. With five commitments, the Tigers have filled almost every positional need you can think of. Waiting out Quaintance won’t incur any opportunity cost.

The shelves are also empty. Almost every top-50 talent has trimmed their list, taken official visits, or made their commitment. After that, Perry and McCarty are likely the only remaining free agents in the range between Nos. 51 and 75, but again, MU is content with earlier pickups at those spots.

Quite frankly, it’s also unlikely a pivot would produce a tangible impact.

We’ve covered this territory before, but prospects rated lower than 50th in the composite are rarely a booster shot. Over the past three seasons, those recruits had a 1.39 median BPR as freshmen, and just 14.2 percent posted ratings higher than 2.0. As the table shows, their on-court presence and usage rate cut the profile of a reserve toward the back of the rotation. Pivot Analysis’ lineup data tells us that they also wind up as a drag on their team’s net rating.

Measuring Impact | Recruit Nos. 51 to 85 | 2021-22 and 2022-23

Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range
Category Average (SD) Median Normal Range
USG% 17.9 (5.1) 17.9 12.8 to 23.0
Possessions 666.0 (500.3) 569.0 165.7 to 1166.3
BPR 1.33 (1.35) 1.39 -0.02 to 2.68
Net Impact -4.29 (11.37) -3.90 -15.66 to 7.08
Data Sources: Sports Reference, evanmiya.com, Pivot Analysis

Occasionally, a player in this range of the composite — UCF’s Taylor Hendricks or Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh — bursts onto the scene. However, most of these prospects need to bide a little time before gaining elevation as they ascend the skill curve during the sophomore season.

Two things are true right now. First, Gates has quickly boosted MU’s recruiting. Second, the program has only landed one player (Annor Boateng) from a composite tier where we find early difference-makers. Marcus Allen, Trent Burns, and Trent Pierce all hail from the region we just discussed and probably need a season for the games to brew and percolate. But three more commits — T.O. Barrett (No. 121), Jordan Butler (No. 131), and Anthony Robinson (No. 150) — might not start maxing out their ceilings until their junior campaigns.

Folding in Quaintance would supply MU with an elite complement on the interior to Boateng on the wing, a pairing that might catalyze progress. Otherwise, there’s a diminishing return to skewing the roster any younger.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 29 Portland at Gonzaga
Portland Pilots guard Mike Meadows passes the ball during against Gonzaga on Jan. 29, 2022.
Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So, what’s the alternative?

Projecting needs is always risky, but it’s a safe bet MU will try to supplement its backcourt with veteran ball handlers once the portal season arrives.

To be clear, that’s not a dig at Robinson. It merely acknowledges a reality where, after buy games dry up at the end of November, minutes might be scarce behind Nick Honor and Sean East. Going from a de facto redshirt season to heavy minutes as a sophomore would be a jarring transition. And because Barrett might start his career playing off the ball, depth at lead guard would be thin.

A freshman like Perry, who ranked 74th in the composite, could shoulder some of those minutes. However, the table below outlines that young and inexperienced players tend to sport high turnover rates and are just average floor spacers when they move off the ball. And what do schools get for enduring those growing pains? Well, in the last three seasons, half of those developmental point guards transferred before their junior season.

Steady Hands? | Freshman Point Guard Efficiency | No. 51-85 | 2021-2023

Possessions BPR Usage AST Rate TOV Rate C-S 3FG% Net Impact
Possessions BPR Usage AST Rate TOV Rate C-S 3FG% Net Impact
797.56 1.11 18.7 19.3 20.2 34.2 -1.52
n=16 Data Sources: evanmiya.com, Sports Reference, Pivot Analysis, Hoop Lens

Under those circumstances, renting a veteran for a season is prudent insurance.

Finding a suitable transfer isn’t onerous, either. If we use the normal range for freshmen BPR as a guardrail, Miya’s database turns up nearly 60 options. Considering this is just a one-year stopgap, we’re left with 19 point guards who exhaust their eligibility this season.

Instant Impact? | Efficiency Averages for Transfer Point Guards | 2022-23

Possessions USG% AST% TOV% C-S 3FG% Net Impact
Possessions USG% AST% TOV% C-S 3FG% Net Impact
1287 21.8 17.1 16.6 32.9 -0.05
n=19 Data Sources: evanmiya.com, Sports Reference, Synergy Sports, Pivot Analysis

What do you gain aside from more seat time? The vets in our sample are more sure-handed despite higher usage. However, their creative prowess is tick lower, and as a group, they’re not quite as potent spacing the floor. Lastly, the average impact on a team’s net rating was zilch.

But once we account for MU’s stylistic preferences, sifting the bin turns up a couple of options.

Gates’ system runs counter to modern trends that build offenses around pick-and-rolls. Instead, the Tigers’ chassis are time-tested Princeton and triangle principles, which rely on ball movement, people movement, and intelligent passing reads. So, MU doesn’t need an on-ball savant whipping passes all over the floor. Its demands are modest: a level head to trigger sets, steady hands, and comfortable floor spacing.

Last spring, the portal would have offered up three intriguing options: Portland’s Mike Meadows, Arizona State’s DJ Horne, and UCF’s Ithiel Horton. But I want to zero in on Meadows.

Mike Meadows | Point Guard | Portland Pilots | 2022-23

Possessions BPR Usage AST Rate TOV Rate C-S 3FG% Net Impact
Possessions BPR Usage AST Rate TOV Rate C-S 3FG% Net Impact
901 1.08 19 15.1 10.5 42.9 11.56
Data Sources: evanmiya.com, Sports Reference, Synergy Sports, Pivot Analysis

The 6-2 guard averaged 11.3 points and 2.2 assists on 19 percent usage last season. Meadows owns a pedestrian career assist rate (15.9%) but only coughs the ball up 11.9 percent of the time. While his game tilts toward ball-screen usage, he’s also comfortable spotting up or running the floor in transition.

Flip on the tape, and you’ll see lots of clips of turning the corner and probing in between spaces. Yet Meadows has proven quite efficient on those mid-range looks (0.931 PPP) throughout his career. He drills 42 percent of resulting catch-and-shoot attempts from behind the arc when he does spot-up. More importantly, the Pilots’ net rating jumped by 11.46 points per 100 possessions with Meadows on the court, per Pivot Analysis.

Sound judgment, reliable shooting, and just enough verve off the bounce to gin up late-clock offense: not a bad package to scoop up in April. It proved enticing enough to land Meadows a spot at a retooling Cal program, but Meadows ventured back into the portal in early August. (The reason wasn’t reported). Instead, he’ll suit up at Saint Louis as a replacement — and change of pace — for Yuri Collins.

It’s also an affordable option. CBS Sports reported that starter-level transfers command around $200,000 in NIL compensation from high-majors, but depth pieces like Meadows might garner less. It’s also a one-time expense, and Gates would have that chunk of his NIL budget — and a roster spot — to allocate for the 2025-26 season. That’s handy, given MU’s doggedly pursuing local five-star point guard Aaron Rowe.

The last five years have challenged convention frameworks we used to make sense of roster constructions. The portal allows a new staff to fast forward past a genuinely hard reset. Some programs — UCLA, Arizona, and Xavier — are mining international markets for talent. Those alternatives have also depressed demand for players rated outside the top 50 of the recruiting rankings.

Yet it’s among that group that Gates and his staff might have found their niche. Now, some savvy pickups next spring could expedite the timeline.