Blum's Banter: What should be made of Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin's recruiting track record?

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts during a game against Arkansas on Feb. 13 at Mizzou Arena.

As on-campus recruiting returns across the country, Missouri's exploits in hosting prospects in Columbia have largely been viewed through football.

There's good reason for that. Eli Drinkwitz and his staff should host the largest number of visits during June and generate the most revenue for the school on a yearly basis. 

The diagnosis for how men's basketball, the other consistent revenue sport for most Division I schools — Missouri included — is a little trickier. 

Since March, the transfer portal has exploded with talent from the hardwood, raising the quality and quantity levels of those looking to switch schools to a level thought impossible two or three years ago. 

More:It's a date: Mizzou basketball slated to play at Kansas on Dec. 11

Take Cam Martin for example. He was a three-time All-American at Division II Missouri Southern in Joplin. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward led the Lions in scoring (25 points per game), rebounding (9.1), shot 58% from the floor and 45% from 3-point range last season. Martin entered the portal and garnered offers from a few high-level Division I schools before landing at Kansas. 

If Jayhawks head coach Bill Self thinks you're good enough to play at Allen Fieldhouse, no one should question it at face value, especially someone like me, who's on-court basketball credentials ended in middle school. However, wouldn't something be lost in translation from a 13-win D-II team to a blue blood?

Look at Courvoisier McCauley. He was a Division-II All-American as well, got recruited by MU and ended up at DePaul. McCauley averaged 3.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game last year for the Blue Demons. 

All cases are different, but it speaks to college basketball's current trend of finding players in untapped routes.

So how does this relate back to Missouri? Readers have voiced concerns about the Tigers' recruiting rankings in recent years. You can't accurately describe MU head coach Cuonzo Martin's ability as a recruiter without starting in 2017.

That class included the highest-rated prospect to ever sign at Missouri (Michael Porter Jr.), half of the five-star prospects to ever ink with the Tigers (Porter Jr. and Jontay Porter), alongside Jeremiah Tilmon, a top-50 national prospect and the seventh-highest-rated recruit in program history, per the 247Sports Composite. 

Also in the 2017 class was the longest-tenured Tiger, Javon Pickett. Six prep prospects in total came to Columbia in that cycle. 

More:Missouri basketball: A look at Mizzou's 2021-22 roster with transfers, incoming freshmen

In the three years after, seven total prospects came to Columbia, including Xavier Pinson, Torrence Watson, a four-star who Martin flipped from Ohio State, and Kobe Brown. 

Missouri's class was No. 2 in the Southeastern Conference in 2017, only behind the one-and-done factory of Kentucky. The next three years weren't as appealing in the Tigers' standing in the SEC at Nos. 11, 9 and then 14 in 2020, with just Jordan Wilmore coming to Columbia.

While yes, those rankings should be better, it also is misleading without the proper context. 

With the load of players already on the Tigers' roster, the number of players Missouri brings in can fluctuate. 

In 2020, Missouri aimed high and missed on all three prime, high-level targets in Caleb Love, Cam'Ron Fletcher and Josh Christopher. Without being infatuated with many other prospects at that level, Martin relied on the transfer portal to fill in the team's holes with Drew Buggs and Ed Chang. 

Whether those transfer-portal pickups were successful or not is definitely up for debate, especially with Chang logging zero minutes as a Tiger and re-entering the transfer portal this offseason. 

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Kickapoo basketball players Trevon Brazile, right, and Anton Brookshire perform a handshake Nov. 11, when they signed with coach Cuonzo Martin and Missouri.

Missouri's largest prep overhaul since 2017 occurred this offseason with five true freshmen on the MU roster. That class is No. 10 in the SEC with Tennessee, No. 1 in this cycle, being the only team rated above the Tigers to also bring in five or more prospects for the fall. 

Along with four transfers, it'll be how this group performs on the court together that dictates the perception of Martin's recruiting ability. 

Martin hasn't done enough in Columbia to be called an elite recruiter. But he also doesn't have a large enough sample size where it can be ruled out. 

The state of Missouri generated 10 three-star or better prospects in the class of 2021. Martin brought three to Columbia, each ranked in the top six. 

Aminu Mohammed, a five-star prospect who plays for Greenwood in Springfield, was the No. 1 prospect in the state in 2021. Mohammed was No. 21 nationally. The No. 2 player from the Show-Me State, MU freshman Anton Brookshire, was No. 140. 

Originally from Washington, D.C., Mohammed made his intentions clear of heading back to the East Coast for college, signing with Georgetown and never showing an interest in Missouri. 

More Mizzou sports:Mizzou football 2021 position breakdown: Quarterback

The 2022 cycle for MU will be critical, too. The Tigers don't have anyone committed to the program from that class yet, and there are five three-star or better prospects from the state of Missouri.

Star ratings only matter so much. No one will complain if the Tigers make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Winning cures everything.

As Missouri's revamped roster takes to the court in about five months for its regular-season opener, the picture of Martin's recruiting status will come more into focus.

Enjoy a return to on-campus recruiting until then.

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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