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Matter: Sharp decision surprised Mizzou, but big men still on market

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Mizzou basketball coach Dennis Gates

Mizzou men's basketball coach Dennis Gates answers questions from the press at the “Come Home Tour” stop Tuesday, April 19, 2022, at the St. Louis Music Park, in Maryland Heights. Photo by Hillary Levin, hlevin@post-dispatch.com

Here are the highlights from our weekly Mizzou chat with Post-Dispatch readers. 

Q: What big men are out there now for the Tigers? Was it more money for Jamarion Sharp at Western Kentucky?

A: I don't know of any specific targets the staff is after. St. Bonaventure's Osun Osunniyi would be a great addition, but Mizzou hasn't been connected to him. He's visited Florida and Iowa State. Former Maryland/Georgetown big man Qudus Wahab would be intriguing, too. The Tigers could really use a rim protector and somebody to provide an inside presence. There's no indication of any mutual interest with those two centers.

As for Sharp, this much I know: Heading into last weekend, Mizzou’s staff fully expected Sharp to transfer to Missouri. The plans were in motion for him to move to Columbia. Then things went quiet between the two sides on Sunday and he shocked everyone Monday when he announced he was staying at WKU. The staff was blindsided. By Wednesday, Sharp was publicly lobbying WKU fans to support the NIL collective that WKU boosters have established to help benefit their athletes, which is perfectly legal and wise for players to promote. (Mizzou's main NIL collective isn't public yet.)

Q: Missouri brought in three high-profile quarterbacks from the portal to convince them this would be the best place for them to show off their talent. What is your opinion on why they all said no?

A: I can't really have an opinion on something without knowing the facts. They didn't explain publicly why they didn't choose Missouri. And it's naïve to think all three based their decision on the same factor(s). I always thought JT Daniels was a long shot. It was known he didn't like the idea of playing in the SEC and playing against his former team (Georgia). Jayden Daniels went to a more established program (LSU) that's two years removed from winning the national championship and is now led by a more proven head coach in Brian Kelly. As for Gerry Bohanon, not sure. He’s headed from Balor to South Florida. Maybe he really likes Tampa. Sure sounds like he really clicked with USF coach Jeff Scott and his staff and his offense. If he's planning on playing just one more season of college football to polish his NFL credentials, then he can do that at USF.

Yes, the SEC is a better conference than the American Athletic Conference, but maybe Bohanon wasn't really looking to play against better competition. Besides, the Big 12 has become a much better defensive league. He wouldn't necessarily play better defenses on Mizzou's schedule. He might even play a better schedule at USF. BYU, Florida, Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville and UCF: Those are some very good programs. Then again, he might be able to put up better numbers and showcase more of his abilities in an offense that developed two NFL starters in Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence. How many NFL QBs has Mizzou's offense developed?

Q: The way too early question: Who's in your starting five next season for men’s hoops?

A: The roster isn't complete and still lacks a true center, but if the season tipped off today, I'd go with something that looks like:

1. Nick Honor

2. Sean East

3. D'Moi Hodge

4. Kobe Brown

5. Mo Diarra

That's with both point guards on the floor together, which is something Dennis Gates said we'll see this year. You can sub out Honor or East and start Hodge at the 2, then maybe move Noah Carter or DeAndre Gholston or Tre Gomillion into the 3 position.

Q: In your opinion do you think the men's basketball team this year will be better than last year’s team? Obviously they haven't played but based on past stats and the team's needs, does the roster look better?

A: It's hard to win fewer than 12 college basketball games in a season unless you schedule too many good nonconference teams or you get smacked with too many injuries to overcome. This staff still needs to address the roster's lack of size. I think they could afford to add another proven shooter. But the addition of two competent point guards in East and Honor could make a major difference, especially late in close games when ball-handling and decision-making are at a premium. The Tigers learned that lesson the hard way this past season.

Gates believes having two point guards will make the rest of the team shoot better from 3-point range because they'll be taking better shots and getting the ball in more favorable shooting positions. He's studied all 11 players' 3-point shot and believes they can all be productive shooters. We'll see.

Q: How would you compare where Brady Cook is in his development to where Chase Daniels was coming into 2006, Blaine Gabbert coming into 2009 and James Franklin coming into 2011? It seems like Daniels got the most in game experience as a backup and Gabbert had the 5-star credentials. But is it fair to expect Cook to have the type of success Franklin had as a first year starter?

A: Who is Chase Daniels? I should disregard this question, but I'll bite anyway.

Daniels appeared in 10 games as a true freshman and attempted 66 passes.

Gabbert appeared in three games as a freshman and attempted 13 passes.

Franklin played in 10 games, attempted 14 passes and ran the ball 23 times.

Then you have Cook, who in two seasons at Mizzou has appeared in seven games, attempted 65 passes and ran the ball 23 times. So, he's a year older in terms of being on a college campus compared to those three guys who became starters as true sophomores. This will be his third year in the same offense. He's thrown the ball a lot more than the latter two. I wouldn't compare him to Daniels, though, because Daniels played in more of a high-leverage situation in that 2005 Iowa State game that essentially saved the season and saved Gary Pinkel's job. Cook mostly got mop-up duty until starting and playing the entire bowl game — with most of MU's starters on the sideline sitting out.

Is it fair for Cook to have Franklin's 2011 success? That year, Franklin threw for 2,800 yards and 21 TDs (11 INTs) with a 140 passer rating and also ran for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns. That's nearly 4,000 yards of total offense. More importantly, he won eight games, beat nationally ranked Texas and Texas A&M, beat rival Kansas and was MVP of a bowl win over North Carolina. That's a pretty impressive season for a first-time starting QB in a power conference. High bar for Cook to surpass. But not impossible.

Q: With the portal QB search recently and the recruiting of Gabbari Johnson at QB for 2023 it almost seems like they think Sam Horn won't be here. How can they keep both four-star Horn and four-star Gabbari Johnson?

A: Nah, don't read into Johnson’s commitment as being remotely related to Horn’s situation. Good staffs take a quarterback every year, even if they're stacking four- and five-star QBs in back-to-back-to-back classes every recruiting cycle. You get as many good QBs as you can carry on the team and you let the depth sort itself out. Some are going to transfer no matter what. You can't keep everyone happy. But it's always better to lose a talented QB when he can't win the job because there's too much talent on the roster as opposed to not having enough QBs to stage a competition. Mizzou was taking a QB in 2023 regardless of the Horn situation.

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