As we continue to social distance and work our way through the spreading pandemic, sports are making decisions on the fly about everything. The NBA is planning on resuming July 30th, MLB is hoping to get going by July 23rd or 24th, and the NFL and NHL are planning returns soon as well.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is still letting schools decide how to handle student-athletes coming back to campus, but they are continuing to limit off-campus recruiting activities for all coaches:
It’s interesting to watch this play out in real time, because it seems to have pushed up far more timelines than you might expect. Mizzou Football’s Eli Drinkwitz has been nabbing commitments left and right, and it’s pretty uncommon for a Missouri Football class to already be sitting on 16 commitments. They’re aided by by the new coach momentum, but credit to the staff for carrying that into the kind of class which is currently ranked higher than any previous Mizzou class in the Rivals era.
College Football commitments tend to be more like reservations than basketball commitments. And having as many as this early could lead to some defections down the road if restrictions are lifted and players are able to get onto other campuses. But nearly half of Mizzou’s commitments are local and ring leaders, and those guys tend to stick. Several others have talked about early enrollment, so it seems like Mizzou’s relationships might be strong to enough to keep most of these players around.
Pivoting to basketball, this puts Cuonzo Martin is a more precarious position. With football, classes are usually so large you don’t need to hit on each guy. But the basketball program really needs an impactful recruiting class each cycle, and for Mizzou Hoops they really need this class to be a good one.
We’ve talked before about the turnover happening after this season, and Cuonzo Martin and his staff have been working hard for both classes. There are really two different ways to look at the 2021 recruiting class and how it’s being impacted by the recruiting restrictions…
- The issue in the last few recruiting cycles was not the coaching staff’s scouting; it was some of their prime targets outplaying existing rankings and working their way beyond Mizzou. Guys like Caleb Love and Cam’Ron Fletcher were early targets last year but both played their way into North Carolina and Kentucky offers. Some early Mizzou offers aren’t blowing up right now and it’s keeping the Tigers in the picture. Think of guys like Tamar Bates or even Kobe Bufkin, neither of whom has really blown up the way I thought they could if there was a full-blown grassroots season. That could help Missouri.
- Part of where Martin succeeds is through relationships, and if he’s not able to get guys on campus and around the players and the environment he’s built… it puts him at a disadvantage.
I tend to look at this as more of an advantage for Martin. He’s already gotten Anton Brookshire on board, and Brookshire is a guy who didn’t blow up. He’s a little undersized for a wing right now, but handles the ball well and is a shot maker. Guys like that tend to improve their position in the offseason.
But the real movers in this class were likely going to be Bates and Bufkin. Bates has already committed to play at IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year, but had planned on committing before the season. Both look like top 75 level players on tape, but without events to showcase talents it’s hard to see where they’re at.
It’s why you see both drop in the most recent 247 rankings, and it’s also something I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into. Without in-person competition, players are being judged on old film. And it’s entirely impossible to determine who projects to where at this point. But the history of the Missouri staff shows they’ve typically been on the ball when scouting and offering guys early. You can quibble with some of the roster management, but the targeting of players has usually been very spot on.
So where this could help Missouri is with guys like Bates and Bufkin, but also with guys like David Joplin, Yaya Keita, Legend Geeter, or Zach Hicks. All four have good size and length, but only Joplin has become a real target of other high major schools. Mizzou could be working themselves into the drivers seat for the others. And considering Butler just took the commitment of another player very much like Joplin, Missouri might be able to use the extended dead period to focus on someone like Joplin and reel him in.
If you’re starting your class with Brookshire and Joplin, you’re building a really good foundation. So maybe the lack of a grassroots season is something Mizzou Basketball can use to its advantage, just like Football.