Missouri Basketball Working To Fill Holes In Roster

Feb 10, 2018; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts to a play against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first half at Mizzou Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017-2018 season was filled with transfers, injuries and dismissals. Despite a turnaround for Missouri basketball, both Blake Harris and C.J. Roberts transferred in the front half of the season, while the team dismissed junior guard Terrence Phillips citing a break of team policy.

It didn’t stop there. The team battled injuries all season. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri’s five-star recruit, played just two minutes in the regular season due to a spinal injury. The Tigers also lost Cullen Vanleer and Adam Wolf to torn ACL’s. 

While the injury bug hurt the Tigers in 2017, Cuonzo Martin has turned to his impressive recruiting track to fill the holes. While plenty of recruits have made Columbia, Mo. their home, it’s both good and bad news for fans.

Last year, Missouri relied on the senior duo of Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett as big contributors. As the pair moves on from Missouri, Martin stacked his team with solid replacements. 

Starting with the good news, Missouri managed to get a hard commitment from four-star recruit Torrence Watson in September. The six-foot-five shooting guard had three games with 50-plus points in his senior season, while setting Whitfield High School’s scoring record with 2,755 points.

Martin landed Dru Smith, a transfer from Evansville. Smith, known for his shooting proficiency, will join Watson in a slew of shooters on Missouri’s roster.

In addition to shooting, Missouri desperately lacked efficient ball-handling last season. Martin addressed the problem with the commitments of Xavier Pinson and Mark Smith. Pinson brings in a proficient set of handling abilities, while Smith will work to reach his full potential while sitting out the 2018 season per transfer rules. In addition to senior Jordan Geist, the Tigers now have backcourt options.

Now for the bad news.

It’s no secret both Porter Jr. and his younger brother Jontay Porter left Missouri for the NBA Draft. Both have received first-round projections. 

With a loss of two bigs, that leaves the Tigers with Jeremiah Tilmon. The 6-foot-10 forward averaged four rebounds per game and 33 blocks last season. Though, there was always the issue of fouls. Tilmon led the team with 121 fouls last season. If Tilmon doesn’t correct his ways, the post will be left to junior Reed Nikko, who clocked a total of roughly eight minutes per contest last season.

The perimeter wasn’t a problem for Missouri in the 2017-2018 season with the likes of Vanleer. However, with the timeline of his ACL injury unknown, the perimeter is undiscovered territory for Missouri.

Community college transfer, K.J. Santos, could fill the hole Vanleer leaves. As a freshman at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Santos averaged 36.7 percent from beyond the arc.

However, with efficiency from beyond the arc, comes a high turnover percentage, a persisting problem for the Tigers. Missouri averaged 14.2 turnovers per game last season, compared to their opponent’s 11.1 per game.

It will be interesting to see how Matin addresses these gaps on the perimeter and in the post, but recruitment isn’t over yet. Martin still has one more scholarship position to fill for the 2018-2019 season.

Nathalie Jones covers the Missouri Tigers and you can find her on Twitter @Nath_Joness