St. Louis University High basketball coach Erwin Claggett always believed Brandon McKissic was built for college basketball’s biggest stage. After four years at University of Missouri-Kansas City, the veteran guard now has that chance.
McKissic is one of the most productive and sought-after mid-major conference players in the NCAA transfer portal, a list of available players that continues to expand by the day. Close to 1,000 players reportedly had submitted their name into the portal as of Monday. Some, such as McKissic and Mizzou’s Mark Smith, are graduate transfers taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted to all players in response to the pandemic.
“I always thought Brandon was a high-major player,” Claggett said Monday. “Honestly, I guess it worked out for him because he really got to develop some skills and got to have an impact on UMKC’s program and he was one of the better players in (the Summit League.)”
He said McKissic’s “talent level was superior” to the amount of college interest he attracted.
“Just for whatever reason he got under-recruited,” Claggett said.
Not any more.
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McKissic, an All-Metro guard at SLUH and the 2016-17 Metro Catholic Conference player of the year, is one of the many mid-major players who has sharpened his game to earn looks from teams in the major conferences. After initially hearing from nearly 20 schools the first day he entered the portal, McKissic has narrowed his choices to Florida, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oregon State and St. Louis University. McKissic has said he could make a decision as early as this week.
The team that lands the 6-foot-3 guard will add a versatile perimeter defender who can run the point and shoot from deep. McKissic is coming off his best collegiate season: He led the Kangaroos with 17.2 points per game, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 42.9% from 3-point range — all career-high figures. He was named the Summit League defensive player of the year and a finalist for the Lefty Driesell Award, given to the nation’s best defensive player.
“Because he’s so good defensively people forget that he can really score,” Claggett said. “He scored a lot for us, but he probably could have scored a lot more. We had a pretty balanced team when he was here, but he’s a guy who can play point guard or he can play off-guard and just make plays. He’s really good teammate, likable kid and, No. 1, is very coachable.”
Along with the proximity to family and friends in St. Louis, McKissic has a couple natural ties to the two in-state programs on his short list. His cousin is SLU senior guard Jordan Goodwin, and while Goodwin doesn’t plan to return for the 2021-22 season, McKissic is familiar with the program and coaching staff. Before joining Cuonzo Martin’s Mizzou staff, Chris Hollender coached at UMKC and recruited McKissic from SLUH.
“The thing that really stands out with coach Martin is that he’s a straight shooter and good guy,” McKissic recently told 247Sports.com. “He’s kept it real with me. Him coming from East St. Louis and me coming from St. Louis and just being in that area, he knows I’m from one of the not best parts and he was able to keep it real with me, and that’s what I respect about him.
“Then coach Hollender, I’ve known him since my sophomore year of high school. He was one of the main reasons why I picked UMKC, so I’ve got like seven years under my belt now knowing him. We’ve always been close . . . even though I couldn’t really talk to him with me being a player and him a coach at a different school. I always joke with him that when I get to the point where I miss him too much I (will) just hop into the portal so I can catch up. He laughs every time I say that.”
Mizzou has landed a transfer in former Green Bay guard Amari Davis, but with at least two scholarships available for next season the Tigers could use more reliable 3-point shooting. MU’s returning players accounted for only 35 3-pointers, on 120 attempts, this season — just 29.2%.
McKissic steadily improved his 3-point shooting each of the last three seasons.
“In high school it wasn’t his main focus because he did so many other things for us,” Claggett said. “I was really happy to see the work that he put in on his shot and last year for him to shoot almost 43%, that’s phenomenal. That’s ridiculously good. He always had it in him.”
A couple former Mizzou targets were among the dozens of players who re-entered the market Monday. Combo guard Rocket Watts, coming off a disappointing two seasons at Michigan State, entered the transfer portal, while Tamar Bates, a four-star recruit from Kansas City, requested to be released from his letter of intent at Texas following Shaka Smart’s departure from Austin to take the Marquette head-coaching job. Bates moved from Piper High in Kansas City to IMG Academy in Florida but initially chose Texas over Kansas and Mizzou.