Caleb Love has made his list.
He’s checked it twice.
He’s revised it, shortened it, and will continue to shave it and shape it as he moves toward deciding and announcing where he will play college basketball.
Yes, Love realizes many people are eagerly awaiting this decision.
“I want to do it before the season,” Love estimated Thursday afternoon.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound star guard at CBC begins his senior season this winter. He’s driven to win a state championship after finishing one win short as a junior who averaged 19 points per game.
Some blueblood college basketball programs are more interested in finding out if Love will be on their campus after that.
So is Mizzou.
Cuonzo Martin’s ongoing rebuild in CoMo will not be confused for one of college basketball’s elite destinations at the moment.
It can be considered a serious contender for Love.
Just ask him.
Listening to Love on Thursday, it was clear that Martin has continued to improve Mizzou’s standing. Martin became one of the first to offer a scholarship to the five-star point guard who college scouting services now believe to be the state’s best player in the 2020 class. Martin has often said he will not lose an in-state player he wants due to lack of effort. He’s showing Love that level of attention. He’s earning his place on the list.
What would it mean for Mizzou if Love picked Martin’s team?
What would it mean if he didn’t?
More on that in a moment.
First, it’s time to update the list.
It’s been cut to four finalists, according to the young man who is in charge of the cutting.
Offered a chance to set the record straight about his recruitment, Love said he will eventually pick between Missouri, Kansas, Louisville and North Carolina.
An official visit that was planned for Indiana has been canceled. The Hoosiers, like the Arizona Wildcats, are out of the race.
Love has plans to visit North Carolina (Sept. 20-22), Louisville (Sept. 27-29) and Kansas (TBD) before he finalizes and announces his decision.
All of this could change, of course. That’s recruiting.
For now, though, Love’s home-state team is hanging tough.
Mizzou coach Martin and assistant coach Chris Hollender were at CBC after school Thursday to meet with Love. This came just days after North Carolina coach Roy Williams arrived to check in on his target. Last weekend, Love made his official visit to Mizzou, where he chatted with Tigers football coach Barry Odom on the sideline before the win against West Virginia. He discovered a banner students had made to encourage him to turn his weekend visit into a more permanent stay.
Love, who has been to the CoMo campus many times, said he prioritized an official visit to Mizzou over an official visit to Arizona because he had a better connection with the Tigers’ coaches. He has warmed to the idea of being a home-state hero. He’s hit it off with Martin.
“Our relationship has grown tremendously throughout the years,” Love said.
Martin has shared Mizzou’s plan for Love’s development. The two have discussed what it will take for Love to launch to the NBA. Martin is also quick to drive the conversation elsewhere.
“It’s not just about basketball with him,” Love said. “It’s about me being a better person, me being a good student. Things like that.
“That’s why I connect with him so much. We talk almost every day. Not just about basketball things. It’s a bigger connection.”
Since he was hired to return a proud program to national prominence, Martin has had mixed results when it comes to convincing the St. Louis area’s top talents to pick black and gold. It’s worth remembering the hole he had to pull his team from. The Tigers had become a non-factor for premier players thanks to 27 combined wins during former coach Kim Anderson’s three seasons.
Jeremiah Tilmon (East St. Louis) jumped in the boat, switching his pledge from Illinois to Mizzou. Mark Smith (Edwardsville) transferred to Mizzou after one season with the Illini. Javon Pickett (Belleville East) opened eyes as a freshman last season. Incoming freshman Mario McKinney (Vashon) followed in the footsteps of his cousin Jimmy, who scored 1,000-plus points for the Tigers between 2002-06.
Players of this caliber passed on the Tigers not long ago. Martin has the talent pipeline flowing again. What he lacks lately is a splash.
No one could have predicted that the signing of Michael and Jontay Porter would leave Mizzou with more scar tissue than star power, but it did.
Meanwhile Martin missed on Texas sophomore Courtney Ramey (Webster Groves), Ohio State freshman E.J. Liddell (Belleville West) and Vashon senior Cam’Ron Fletcher, who gave his commitment to Kentucky in early August.
Two things can be true:
1. Martin has significantly improved Mizzou’s standing when it comes to recruiting St. Louis-area stars.
2. It’s fair to expect bigger and better over time.
Landing Love would be a major splash.
His list is shrinking, and Mizzou remains in the mix.