When Missouri arrived in Sacramento for the NCAA tournament, the Tigers were an outfit short on depth. Tre Gomillion was nagged by minor maladies. Ronnie DeGray III had an injured knee. And Isiaih Mosley was absent as he dealt with off-floor matters.
Practically speaking, coach Dennis Gates’ bench unit consisted of Sean East II and Mohammed Diarra, and every so often, upping Aidan Shaw’s playing time.
Over Mizzou’s final 10 games, it was routine for starters to log 30-plus minutes a game. It happened half a dozen times for DeAndre Gholston. Seven was the lucky number for D’Moi Hodge. And Kobe Brown cleared that threshold eight times in the stretch run. East’s presence is probably what spared Honor.
Most years, facing a No. 15 seed in the second round of the NCAA tournament is an opportunity a team would relish. Instead, MU lacked the depth — and lineup flexibility — to pivot when it was clear Princeton had nailed the scout. Would the situation have unfolded differently if Gates had two more backcourt pieces at his disposal?
Next season, he might not have to wonder.
On Thursday, Mizzou secured a commitment from Iowa State guard Caleb Grill, who was on an official visit this weekend in Columbia. With his choice, Grill becomes the third guard to sign on with the Tigers this spring. His job: bury jumpers. It’s what he did last season in Ames, shooting 36.8 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
Iowa State guard Caleb Grill tells @247SportsPortal that he is transferring to #Mizzou "The fact that (Gates) can turn a high major program just like that shows how bought in the players are with him and how bought in the coaching staff was to him." https://t.co/zTnkOiT1Tq pic.twitter.com/TC751nxTqA— Eric Bossi (@ebosshoops) April 20, 2023
There’s a temptation to think MU might be going a tad overboard in collecting guards. That’s fine. But Gates has been unabashed in stating his preferences. “I’m still trying to lead the country in 3-point shooting and positive assist-to-turnover ratio,” he told assembled media last week.
Through that lens, John Tonje fit as a replacement component for DeAndre Gholston. Bates’ touch tally at Indiana is basically identical to Tre Gomillion’s. If Mosley is fully available next season, he soaks up Hodge’s possessions.
So, welcome to Grill. Over four years, almost 68 percent of field-goal attempts qualified as catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, and when wide open, he drilled them at 43.3 percent clip. His assist-to-turnover ratio isn’t gaudy (1.5), but Grill only turned the ball over 14.4 percent of the time.
Caleb Grill | Wing | 6-3, 200 pounds | 2022-23
Gates’ system excelled at creating those kinds of open 3s last season, ranking eighth among high-major programs, according to Synergy Sports tracking data. Aside from Grill, Tonje (38.1%) and Bates (41.3%) also excelled at converting those unobstructed attempts from long range.
We can also conceptualize it this way: Hodge, Gholston and Gomillion combined to make 59 of 135 unguarded 3s last season. The trio of Grill, Tonje, and Bates went 57 of 129 on similar attempts. Then there’s Honor, who went 20 of 49 on those shots last season. Lastly, Mosley, despite an off-kilter season, was 42 of 97 on them over three years at Missouri State.
But you get the point. Gates has optionality that was sorely lacking by the end of last season.
Sure, adding a legit big to the roster has been pressing matter. But the staff also needed to identify reliable shooters to keep the Tigers’ floor spacing immaculate. Landing Grill should leave Gates reasonably assured he’s restocked that inventory.
Let’s Meet Caleb Grill
- From: Maize, Kan.
- Previous School: Iowa State
- Position: Wing
- Ht/Wt: 6-3/200
- Rivals Ranking: NR
- 247Composite Ranking: 0.9111 (HS)
- Total announced offers: Missouri and West Virginia
- Offers to note: West Virginia
The intrigue with Grill is how expansive that role will be. At Iowa State, he logged heavy minutes for coach T.J. Otzelberger, but the nature of his work wasn’t as labor-intensive as some other Cyclones.
Offensively, Grill spent most of this time running spacing cuts, lifting from and drifting to the corner, and interchanging with a team on the other side of the floor – hoping to get a kick out. The Kansan went off in a handful of games, notably a 31-point outing against North Carolina, where he did the bulk of his damage with a certain Tar Heel from St. Louis guarding him. Typically, though, Grill had to endure longer stretches between touches.
While Iowa State’s no-middle defense was aggressive, Grill often found himself away from the play side, keeping tabs on a shooter camping in the weakside corner. That’s not to say he was a poor defender. On the contrary, he was solid at sliding to the mid-line, digging down on post players, and tagging rollers. There’s inherent value in being a reliable part of the shell.
Adding Grill, however, is not free of questions or skepticism.
In early March, Otzelberger dismissed Grill for “failing to meet expectations.” A day later, Grill posted a lengthy message on social media thanking Otzelberger and disclosed that he had been battling a mental illness. In that same message, Grill admitted to making a comment “that I regret which has cost me the opportunity to finish out my dream at Iowa State.” It’s also important to note that Grill missed time with a lingering back injury.
Presumably, MU’s staff did a deep enough vetting that it feels comfortable bringing Grill into the fold. It also has some experience from last season when Isiaih Mosley missed extended time dealing with personal matters away from the floor.
Then there’s the matter of Grill’s back. On film, you can tell a noticeable difference in his movement between November and February. It’s glaring when you watch him make sharp twisting movements, like turning to get over a screen, or a sharp change in direction. The staff has likely done a deep scrub on his medical file.
A lack of backcourt depth in Ames forced Grill into a heavy load of minutes. It’s doubtful he’ll encounter that in Columbia. As junior in Ames, for example, he averaged about 24 minutes a game. Given MU’s roster makeup, that might be on the higher end.
Assuming Grill is healthy and in a good head space, he might qualify as one of the more underrated pickups this offseason. Reliable shooting is immensely valuable, and Grill provides it. And because he’d played over 80 games against KenPom top-100 teams, the staff won’t have to wonder whether it scales up to the SEC.
What they’re saying:
NEWS: Iowa State transfer Caleb Grill has committed to Missouri, he tells @On3sports.— Joe Tipton (@TiptonEdits) April 20, 2023
Averaged 9.5 points and 4 rebounds per game this season.
Story w/ quotes: https://t.co/QNoPaE1nQH pic.twitter.com/K5j4gL0FUF
Get to know Mizzou's newest pledgepic.twitter.com/c87BYVMhqa— Order On The Court ⚖️ (@DataMizzou) April 20, 2023
And there it is. Mizzou fills a guard spot. https://t.co/QdUdvrQZxN— Matt Harris (@MattJHarris85) April 20, 2023
Iowa State guard Caleb Grill has committed to Missouri and Dennis Gates, first by @TiptonEdits.— 24/7 High School Hoops (@247HSHoops) April 20, 2023
Grill spent three of his four collegiate seasons at Iowa State, while also spending one at UNLV.
He averaged 9.5PPG, 4RPG and 1.4APG last season for the Cyclones. Another good piece… pic.twitter.com/sCVUAPqTvw