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Matter on Mizzou: Martin's roster makeover adds three intriguing perimeter pieces

Matter on Mizzou: Martin's roster makeover adds three intriguing perimeter pieces

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — As we begin the week saying farewell to one college basketball season, let’s start looking ahead to the next one to tip off some Monday Mizzou musings.

1. Like so many teams across the country, Cuonzo Martin’s projected basketball roster in 2021-22 will barely resemble the team he had on the floor this year. After a mass exodus to the transfer portal, replacement parts have quickly fallen into place.  As of Monday, Mizzou has 11 of 13 scholarships accounted for in 2021-22. Eight of those 11 will be newcomers: five freshmen and three transfers. Martin is looking to add more. He’s open to using both scholarships if he can land the right players. He’s also been content going into seasons with 12 scholarships and one open seat.

Here’s a quick refresher on what the Tigers have added since the end of the season:

• Jarron “Boogie” Coleman, guard, Ball State: The 6-foot-5 combo guard from Indianapolis is arguably the most accomplished of the transfers. He can play the point or the wing. In high school he could play all five positions on either end of the floor. In two seasons at Ball State, he became a much-improved 3-point shooter: 32.5% as a freshman, then 42.5% as a sophomore. His inconsistent 3-point stroke and physique limited him to mid-major suitors as a high school recruit, Cathedral High coach Jason Delaney said, but he’s made major strides in both areas. At Ball State, where he played alongside former Missouri Tiger K.J. Walton, Coleman reshaped his body fat to 6%, Delaney said.

Foot surgery sidelined him for the first 10 games this season but after a slow start he finished strong, averaging 22 points over Ball State’s final five games while shooting 46.5% from 3-point range. He hasn’t been a consistently high-assist guard but had at least four assists in six of 13 games. In each of his two seasons at Ball State, he was fifth in the Mid-American Conference in assist rate. He’s also a strong rebounding guard, averaging 5.2 per game this season.

Coleman should be able to step in and compete immediately for a starting job at point guard and can comfortably slide over to the two or three positions on the perimeter.

 DaJuan Gordon, guard, Kansas State: Don’t look at this as a trade for Mark Smith. Two completely different players who will be used in different ways.

Mizzou’s regular-season finale against LSU underscored MU’s limited athleticism on the perimeter. “We need to get some athletes!” read the text message on my phone from a staff source after that game, when Cam Thomas scorched the Tigers for 29 points on just 13 shots from the field and Trendon Watford went for 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Dru Smith was a solid defender for Mizzou, but there’s only so much he could do against elite athletes and shot-makers. This is where the need for a player like the 6-4 Gordon fits into Mizzou’s offseason wishlist. He’s not a polished shooter. Most of his shots came at the rim, where he was an efficient scorer. Gordon wasn’t a high-volume 3-point shooter at K-State and struggled this year at 23.1% from deep. But the Tigers aren’t adding him to uncork 3s. He’s a slasher. He’s a perimeter defender. He’s a prolific rebounder from the wing. Bottom line: He’s the kind of perimeter athlete this team has been lacking.

But don’t underestimate his talent. Gordon was a four-star top-75 high school recruit and, perhaps most impressive, was named the Chicago Sun Times player of the year as a senior. They just don’t give that award to anyone. Of the 23 players who won the award before Gordon, 12 made NBA rosters, including two league MVPs.

2021: Max Christie, Michigan State

2020: DJ Steward, Duke

2019: DaJuan Gordon, Kansas State/Mizzou

2018: Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State (NBA)

2017: Alonzo Verge, Arizona State

2016: Charlie Moore, Cal/Kansas/DePaul

2015: Jalen Brunson, Villanova (NBA)

2014: Cliff Alexander, Kansas (NBA)

2013: Jahlil Okafor, Duke (NBA)

2012: Jabari Parker, Duke (NBA)

2011: Wayne Blackshear, Louisville

2010: Jereme Richmond, Illinois

2009: Jereme Richmond, Illinois

2008: Kevin Dillard, Southern Illinois/Dayton

2007: Derrick Rose, Memphis (NBA)

2006: Jon Scheyer, Duke

2005: DeAndre Thomas, Indiana

2004: Calvin Brock, Illinois

2003: Shannon Brown          , Michigan State (NBA)

2002: Sean Dockery, Duke

2001: Eddy Curry (NBA)

2000: Cedrick Banks, Illinois-Chicago

1999: Leon Smith (NBA)

1998: Quentin Richardson, DePaul (NBA)

1997: Melvin Ely, Fresno State (NBA)

1996: Ronnie Fields

1995: Kevin Garnett (NBA)

Gordon should step in immediately to play the two or three position on the wing or could play the four in a small-ball rotation.

• Amari Davis, guard, Green Bay: The analytics crowd wouldn’t have liked watching UCLA the past three weeks in the NCAA Tournament, but if the Bruins proved anything it’s that a strong midrange jumper can still be an effective basketball shot. That was Davis’ specialty at Green Bay, where as a freshman 59.5% of Davis’ field goal attempts were 2-point jumpers. He knocked down 43.5% of them. After not making any 3-pointers as a freshman, he expanded his range as a sophomore — though he still shot just 28% from deep on 3.3 attempts per game — 2-point jumpers still accounted for 46.4% of his shots. He made 40%.

Davis’ offensive game flies in the face of the modern ethos that points should come on layups, 3-pointers and free throws, but there were plenty of games this year where Mizzou’s struggles to defend pull-up midrange jumpers hurt the Tigers, notably Mississippi State. If Davis continues to work on his 3-point shot, continues to get to the foul line and gives the Tigers an added dimension with the midrange game, he’ll be an immediate asset as a combo guard.

2. Who’s left in the transfer market? Literally hundreds of options.

Mizzou would sure like to add a frontcourt player. Kobe Brown returns at power forward. After his first full offseason under team trainer Nicodemus Christopher, Jordan Wilmore will get the opportunity to play center. Otherwise, the Tigers are extremely thin inside. Martin believes incoming freshman Trevon Brezile is one of the best shot-blockers in the entire 2021 class. Incoming freshman Yaya Keita brings size, strength and loads of promise to the frontcourt — and a surgically repaired knee that wiped out his senior year at De Smet. In today’s game teams can still thrive without a traditional 6-10 center posting up in the paint every play, but the Tigers will need some inside muscle, especially on the boards. Creighton transfer Christian Bishop, a Missouri native from Lee’s Summit, would check some important boxes. He’s only 6-7 but thrives as a small-ball five. He’s a fierce rebounder, especially on the defensive glass (21.9 defensive rebounding rate), can block shots, draw fouls inside and score efficiently inside the arc (69% on 2s). Mizzou’s biggest challenge figures to be Kansas, which offered Bishop a scholarship last week.

Tamar Bates, a four-star guard from Kansas City the Tigers recruited heavily, re-entered the market when he backed out of his letter of intent to Texas. Mizzou would love to sign him but competition figures to be rugged.

Speaking of Texas, Donovan Williams played limited minutes there as a freshman and sophomore but is a player Mizzou recruited out of high school in Houston. He’s a 6-6 wing that never fully got in the rotation under Shaka Smart.

Eastern Kentucky freshman Wendell Green Jr. remains one of the most intriguing mid-major prospects. The 5-11 point guard had more assists (146) than any freshman in the nation. He’s a scoring point guard (15.8 points per game, 36.4% from 3-point range) who can grab steals, draw fouls and create plays for others.

As of Monday, 30 of the 76 teams from the six major conferences have had at least four players in the portal this year:

4: Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Rutgers, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Texas, Arizona, Arizona State, Xavier

5: Georgia, Missouri, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech, Washington

6: Indiana, Colorado, Utah

7: Minnesota, Penn State, Wake Forest, DePaul

8: St. John’s

3. What’s next for X? If you’re curious where former Mizzou guard Xavier Pinson will land, he dropped his final four on Instagram on Sunday: Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia and Nebraska. If all four teams have an equal 25% chance of leading Pinson, that means there’s a 75% chance he’ll play a game at Mizzou Arena next season. Arkansas is one of the four SEC opponents Mizzou plays both home and away every year, while Auburn and Georgia are both due to play in Columbia next season.

Here’s something all four teams have in common: They all play at a swift pace, relatively. Using KenPom’s adjusted tempo metric, Georgia ranked 13th this year, followed by Arkansas (19), Nebraska (35) and then Auburn (55), though Bruce Pearl’s had two teams rank in the top 20. Mizzou ranked No. 163 this year, up from No. 267 last season.

Auburn needs a replacement for standout freshman guard Sharife Cooper, who will enter the NBA draft, though Bruce Pearl’s lead guard is always a high-assist playmaker, whether that’s Cooper (8.1 per game), J’von McCormick (4.5) or Jared Harper (5.8). Pinson has never averaged more than 2.9 per game and was more of a high-volume shooting point guard.

What about the Hogs? Arkansas is losing transfer guard Desi Sills — why he hasn’t commanded more high-major attention on the market is a mystery to this writer — and could lose both junior guards J.D. Notae and star freshman Moses Moody to the NBA. Eric Musselman has built a second home in the transfer portal the last couple years and that doesn’t figure to change, though he beat Alabama and LSU for four-star Georgia high school guard Chance Moore.

Unless Tom Crean loses a sixth player to the portal, Georgia’s Sahvir Wheeler could be the best returning point guard in the SEC next year. He’s a pass-first floor leader who could make for an ideal pairing with Pinson. There should be plenty of shots for Pinson to take in Athens next year with Toumani Camara moving into the portal. (There’s another intriguing prospect, though he’s been linked to Miami by multiple reports.)

Then there’s Nebraska, another up-tempo team that’s gone all of 14-45 the last two seasons.

4. Steve Bieser needed this. Left for dead after a dreadful three-game series against No. 1 Vanderbilt then a wretched loss at Kansas last week, the Tigers took two of three from Texas A&M over the weekend to improve to 10-17 overall and 3-6 in the SEC. Mizzou is still the SEC’s only team with an overall losing record, but the SEC mark is as good or better than five other teams.

“We showed a lot of character today,” Bieser said after Saturday’s 7-3 win. “We've just got to continue to build off these last two games."

For some, MU’s struggles are also seen through the same lens that notices Tennessee has quickly become one of the nation’s top programs under the leadership of former Mizzou player and longtime assistant coach Tony Vitello. Of course, in 2016, Vitello interviewed for the head-coaching job at his alma mater to replace his mentor and former boss Tim Jamieson, back when Vitello was a highly successful assistant coach at Arkansas. By his own admission, Vitello didn’t give the interview his best effort. He figured Mizzou favored Rob Walton, Oklahoma State’s pitching coach. Vitello later told the Post-Dispatch he didn’t think he was “a viable option” at Mizzou.

Either way, a year later Vitello landed the Tennessee job and now has the Vols at 24-5 and up to No. 4 in the national polls. He’ll be back at Mizzou next month, when the Tigers host Tennessee May 7-9.

5.  A few Mizzou nuggets: How does Mark Smith fit in at Kansas State? Hearing he wants to play point guard and that factored into his decision to play for the Wildcats. That wasn’t going to happen for him at Mizzou. … Former Tiger Jontay Porter has now appeared in four games with the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s only scored in one of those games but it was a unique stat line against Utah on March 27: five points, four rebounds, two steals in seven minutes. Per @SBNGrizzlies, he became just the 10th player in NBA history to log those numbers in seven minutes of less. … Incoming Mizzou freshman Kaleb Brown was named Alabama’s Class 5A player of the year after leading his team to the state championship. As a senior he averaged 16.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game. … Mizzou softball is doing damage across the SEC. The Tigers (28-7, 6-3) are in fourth place in the conference and lead the SEC in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.430), runs (265), hits (336), doubles (66) and total bases (566) while ranking second in slugging (.590) and home runs (52).

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