Well, folks, what will we do with all this free time?
On Tuesday, five-star point guard and Columbia native Aaron Rowe committed to Missouri, announcing his decision on a live stream with On3 Sports just nine days after taking an official visit. Just like that, the Tigers have their second-highest-rated pledge in the past two decades and a headliner for their 2025 class.
In December, mind you.
For prospects of Rowe’s ilk, the recruiting process unfolds on their terms — and for whatever duration they deem necessary. It’s not uncommon for courtships, which already last two years, to stretch into the spring of a player’s senior campaign. Simply put, it’s exceptionally rare for a recruit of this stature to wrap down their process so soon.
Just look at 247Sports’ composite rankings for the 2025 cycle. Rowe’s the seventh top-150 prospect — and the highest-rated — to come off the board. What do most of these players have in common? They’re staying close to home.
Frankly, the timing of the decision is the sole surprise here. Rowe’s made several unofficial trips back home to Columbia. He’s had training sessions in the practice gym at MU. And he’s been a priority for the last two coaching staffs.
The question was whether Rowe’s timeline might extend long enough for blue-blood suitors like Kansas to gain a modicum of traction. KU’s pitch is obvious. Lots of winning. A Hall of Fame coach. An engaged NIL collective. And a roster recently rooted in MoKan Elite alums, including a fellow Columbia native currently entrenched at lead guard in Lawrence.
Other suitors offered similar local ties. Tennessee employs Rod Clark, a former MoKan head coach, on its staff, and he’s wooed Coen Carr to Knoxville. Last Spring, Kansas State lured Rodney Perry, another former MoKan coach, away from his Link Academy gig.
Lurking in the background, too, is the role of NIL. In April, Rowe inked a representation deal with WME Sports, which represented former Kansas star Grady Dick. That group also bought the agency that handles work for NBA players like Luka Doncic, Chet Holmgren, and R.J. Barrett. Under Missouri state law, Rowe can draw NIL payouts when he puts his signature on a letter of intent with MU next fall.
But now? That potential drama and the need to treat Rowe’s recruitment like a conspiracy mood board has evaporated. Fresh off one top-five recruiting class, coach Dennis Gates now has his headliner for what he hopes will be another elite group.
Let’s Meet Aaron Rowe
- From: Columbia, Mo.
- High School: Father Tolton
- Position: Point Guard
- Ht/Wt: 6-1/165
- Rivals Ranking: No. 25
- 247Composite Ranking: No. 20 (0.9922)
- Total announced offers: 10
- Offers to note: Kansas State and Tennessee
To say Rowe’s endured a slight layoff is a mild understatement.
In late October, the Columbia native opted for a return to Father Tolton from Link Academy, where he suited up last season on the NIBC, an independent league comprised of prep powerhouses around the country. Doing so meant being sidelined under MSHSAA’s transfer policy, but the Columbia Daily Tribune reported over the weekend that Tolton expects Rowe to be cleared for action in early January.
That works out to six months between playing in a live setting. Now, Rowe’s been in the gym. He went through a portion of Link’s preseason program and worked out with his trainer in Columbia. He can also practice with Tolton.
For our purposes, the best tape is from MoKan Elite’s week at Peach Jam, which took place in early July as the coup de grace of Nike’s EYBL circuit. Even then, it would help if you had some context. MoKan’s roster suffered from an enviable problem: an abundance of lead guards. The grassroots powerhouse already had Missouri signee T.O. Barrett and future LSU guard Curtis Givens Jr. signed on. As we documented this summer, accommodating Rowe meant nudging Barrett off the ball for specific stretches.
Aaron Rowe | Point Guard | 6-foot-1, 165 pounds | EYBL | 2023
At Peach Jam, however, MoKan tweaked its formula, playing Rowe, Barrett, and Givens together the bulk of the time. Under that power-sharing arrangement, Rowe and Givens initiated the offense while Barrett spaced the floor off the ball. That setup flipped on the defensive end. When Rowe saw time on the ball, opponents often hunted him — and his slight frame — in ball screens.
Why the preamble?
That week, Rowe’s scoring opportunities only tended to come up early in possessions or as the 24-second shot clock ticked down. Rowe only needs a little runway to ramp up speed, and creating that separation is his chief asset. Often, Rowe’s burst grants him entry to the middle gap before a defense is done matching up — and before a big can rotate to contest.
Sometimes, Rowe does need a bit of help shedding a defender, but the tool is a simple butt screen set by a big at the top of the key. Contact isn’t necessary. Merely forcing a trailing defender to veer slightly off course is all Rowe needs to pick the lock.
When MoKan’s whirring through half-court sets, Rowe might be a bit of a ball-stopper as he waves teammates into place for a high pick-and-roll like a ground crew member on a tarmac. More often than not, Rowe’s aiming to work to his right hand for pull-up jumpers. His preferred spot is the right elbow. He’s exceptionally creative with two-dribble combinations and hesitation to create space, but he’s at his best when the defense defaults to drop coverage and concedes that operating room.
Assessing Rowe as a floor spacer proves a bit trickier. Raw statistics don’t sketch a favorable quick impression: 24.1 percent from behind the 3-point arc on relatively low volume. Then again, Rowe also played up a year against older peers on the EYBL, which also uses the NBA distance — or four feet beyond the high-school line. That proficiency should improve as Rowe’s body matures and his mechanics evolve.
But Rowe’s poise as a facilitator is advanced. Sure, he can improve his reads, but he can make most reads you want in a high or spread pick-and-roll and shows promises throwing live-dribble passes with either hand. MoKan’s offense was also an ideal fit for his skill set, frequently inverting the floor or spacing its bigs to create clean airspace when Rowe needed to hit rollers in the middle of the floor.
Yet he also handles the routine work of a ball mover. A chunk of MoKan’s playbook entailed horns, chin or box sets where guards back screened to get bigs cutting toward the rim. Or it might have one guard set a pin down on the weak side and cutter curl back into the paint. Regardless, Rowe, usually stationed in the strong-side slot, pinged timely passes that didn’t require those cutters to throw on the breaks or adjust to make a catch. And bland as it might seem, Rowe nonchalantly slots a pass into the shot pocket of a teammate flying off a screen, such as baseline staggers into the corner.
Aaron Rowe | Point Guard | Efficiency Metrics | EYBL | 2023
Rowe’s efficiency (0.783 PPP) isn’t flashy, but his role within MoKan’s backcourt hierarchy matters again. Givens’ usage (27.6%) paced the group, and his shot portfolio skewed more toward floor spacing. Barrett tried to apply clamps defensively, crash the glass, and operate as a secondary ball handler. Rowe picked up more creative slack, posting a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio and a 2.5 BCI score.
Defensively, Rowe’s reliable and engaged. Given his build, it’s logical opposing scouting reports singled him out as a target of switches, particularly for bigger combo guards and wings. And look, there are possessions where Rowe gets picked off fighting over the top of a screen. But there are just as many where he clears the obstacle and makes a quality recovery. He’s not as physical of a presence on the ball as a prospect like Barrett, but Rowe executes the myriad coverages MoKan installs and runs.
Rowe’s quickness and lateral agility are more than enough to deny straight-line drives into gaps playing in isolation. Forcing counters allows him to stay on balance — and enables help defenders to rotate. Rowe also possesses enough length to make pull-ups and attempts while playing off two feet a tad tricky.
While we can try to be measured in our tone and pragmatic in our outlook, it’s hard to understate the impact of locking in a player of Rowe’s caliber. Time is a vital commodity on the trail, and with its lead target secured, MU’s staff will now have more of it to dedicate to vet portal options this spring and zeroing in on other highly touted 2025 prospects to surround Rowe.