On the basketball court, Missouri has undoubtedly dominated the majority of the state’s headlines.
As a result of in-state recruiting successes in the past three years, though, the No. 5 Tigers might also have become the dominant recruiter in Missouri.
“There are more and more good players coming out of Missouri, and people are starting to recognize that,” freshman guard Spencer Laurie said. “It’s exciting for Missouri. I hope all the young kids see that and keep working just as hard.”
Coach Quin Snyder’s successes have not come easily. When Snyder took control of the program in 1999, he made in-state recruiting a focus but found his program had few good contacts with high school coaches.
“We want to have the best players in the state of Missouri come to Mizzou,” Snyder said. “We didn’t have a lot of those relationships when we got here, but I think the kids in the state love the school.”
After building relationships with high school coaches through camps and clinics, this changed quickly. Snyder scored his first victory in Missouri when Jimmy McKinney, a guard from St. Louis’ Vashon High and 2002 Mr. Show-Me Basketball, signed with the Tigers before the 2002-03 season.
McKinney’s signing with the Tigers put the rest of the state on notice.
“I think (the view of MU) changed a lot, and I’m thankful that it did,” McKinney said.
The next signing period, Laurie, the 2003 Missouri Mr. Show-Me Basketball, decided to stay in state, and Kalen Grimes, of Hazelwood Central High in St. Louis, made it three straight years an in-state player became a Tiger. Grimes signed his national letter of intent on Nov. 12.
Roy Green, who coached Laurie at Kickapoo High in Springfield, said Snyder’s personality had a positive impact and improved the recruiting.
“Quin, personally, is an outstanding recruiter,” Green said. “He’s probably a players-type coach. He’s a young guy with a lot of enthusiasm and charisma. I can’t see anybody that Mizzou would recruit that would not want to play for him.
“He’s just a pretty dynamic person. As a player, you’ve got to be thinking, ‘I want to go play for this guy.’ On top of that, if you’re from Missouri, you’d be saying, ‘This guy’s one of the best recruiters around. Looks like a fun guy to play for, and gosh, he’s right here in my home state.’ I think that’s a pretty big influence.”
Since arriving at MU, McKinney has become an invaluable part of the team. When former guard Ricky Clemons struggled a year ago, McKinney stepped in at the point guard midway through the season, averaging almost nine points.
This season, with doubt surrounding the Tigers’ point guard spot, McKinney quieted some of the concern with solid, efficient performances in two exhibition games. He played a team-high 31.5 minutes a game.
Randy Pulley, a pass-first point guard, transferred from Barton (Kan.) Community College, but because his transfer credits have not been certified, he is ineligible. The Tigers do not know when Pulley will be available.
In Laurie’s case, Green said Snyder allowed Laurie to quickly narrow his choices.
“There was never much doubt in my mind that Spencer was going to go to MU, and Quin had to be a big part of that, too,” Green said. “I think Spencer wanted to go play for him.”
Although the Tigers considered redshirting Laurie this season, he played in the Tigers’ 74-60 win against Asheville of the NBDL, the NBA’s developmental league, Nov. 18.
Snyder said he is excited about Laurie’s potential despite a less than stellar debut as Laurie committed three turnovers in nine minutes.
Laurie also considered Minnesota, North Carolina State and Southwest Missouri State.
“Really, I’ve been such a big fan (of MU),” Laurie said. “I know it has always been a hard-working program. Then when Coach Q came in, you want to take it to the next level. That really made me excited and really want to come here. I’m glad I did.”