Derrick Butler’s phone has been ringing off the hook lately, so much that his full voice mailbox is no longer accepting messages.
Of course, this isn’t a surprise to Butler. He’s become used to this kind of attention as Keon Lawrence’s high school basketball coach at Weequahic high school in Newark, N.J. Lawrence, a 6-foot-2 guard, signed a national letter of intent to play at Missouri in November.
A lot has changed since, with former Missouri coach Quin Snyder’s departure from the team and the hiring of former UAB coach Mike Anderson to replace Snyder last Sunday.
What hasn’t changed is Lawrence’s loyalty to Missouri’s associate head coach Melvin Watkins, who was primarily responsible for Lawrence’s commitment to Missouri according to Butler.
The hiring of Anderson was somewhat disappointing to Butler and Lawrence, who had been rooting for Watkins to land the coaching position given their strong relationship with Watkins. Now they hope Watkins keeps his job as an assistant after the turnover.
“Keon, really he doesn’t care who is the head coach, the only thing he’s been concerned with is Melvin Watkins going to be part of it ... so he could be a Tiger. That was his biggest thing. Right now, today, if Melvin Watkins is part of that program, Keon Lawrence will attend Missouri,” Butler said.
If Watkins isn’t brought back, Butler said he doesn’t think Lawrence would attend MU.
If Lawrence wanted to transfer, he would have to be released by Anderson or lose a year of eligibility to go to another school.
Butler was with Lawrence on Tuesday and said Lawrence expressed his concern about his future at MU.
“I just left him (Keon), he just went to get a haircut, we were just talking and he’s kind of hot about the situation because he, you know, he has nothing against Mike Anderson because he doesn’t know him, but he knows Melvin Watkins and he’s stressed, ‘I am not going out there all the way to Mizzou by myself like that,’” Butler said.
Watkins spoke with Butler on Sunday concerning his status at MU and said that he’s likely to know what his future holds after the Final Four.
“He explained to me that he was supposed to meet with Mike Anderson (sometime this week) and he would get back in contact with me after the Final Four,” Butler said.
When asked about what coaching staff he would bring in and if Watkins would be involved at his press conference on Sunday, Anderson didn’t give any direct answer but said he was “big on loyalty” and made references to his assistants at UAB.
While Watkins’ future and Lawrence’s commitment to Missouri remains unclear, Butler has received many phone calls concerning Lawrence’s commitment to Missouri.
“St. Johns, George Mason, Keon likes Louisville, Villanova,” Butler said.
Since some schools don’t have scholarships available for next season, Butler said Lawrence has recently shown interest in going to prep school next year and then deciding which school to pick.
“He’s to the point now that he’s considering going prep, you know he said right now he might want to go prep because if he goes prep he can go to any big time ballclub that he wants.”
Last weekend, Lawrence competed in the North-South all-star game featuring players from the New Jersey area. Lawrence scored 30 points to capture the MVP and won the dunk contest at halftime. Lawrence averaged 30 points, eight rebounds, and six assists this season for Weequahic.
Anderson called Butler on Sunday night, stating his interest in Lawrence, assuring Butler that Lawrence would be treated “as if he was family” at Mizzou.
Butler said Anderson is planning to visit Lawrence, although he is unsure when.
How Anderson relates with Lawrence in their visit could determine Lawrence’s future with the MU, with or without Watkins.
“He told me that he would be up here for a visit and that’s great,” Butler said. “You know maybe he comes up for a visit and maybe Keon might feel different. You never know. Just talking to somebody over the phone and saying who you are is different than coming to meet that person and get a good rapport, you know.”
Missouri’s class of 2006 also includes a pair of forwards from Redlands Community College in Ty Morrison and Vaidatos Volkus.
Morrison was rated as the No. 3 junior college player in the class of 2006 according to JucoJunction.com, the same site listed Volkus at No. 33.
Redlands coach Steve Eck said he hasn’t had a chance to talk with Morrison or Volkus since Anderson’s hiring on Sunday, and said that neither Morrison or Volkus displayed an interest toward one coach or another during the coaching search.
“No, they sure didn’t. I am sure they’d like coach Watkins or coach Meyer,” Eck said. “That’s why they signed there.”
Eck said that the Missouri coaches have done a good job in keeping up with his players during the process and mentioned that Watkins came down to watch them workout and practice last Friday on campus in El Reno, Okla.
Eck said that he hasn’t talked with Morrison and Volkus concerning their commitments with MU since Snyder’s departure.
“We really haven’t discussed it, I know you don’t believe that but we really haven’t,” Eck said. “We were busy playing basketball so that never really came up.”