Major college basketball players are proud people. When they are being recruited, they are used to prospective coaches catering to their needs and showing interest in them as human beings, not just basketball players. Former Tigers recruit Keaton Grant said Missouri didn’t do any of that.
After verbally committing in 2005, Grant did not score high enough on his SATs to qualify academically to play for Missouri last season, and he went to Bridgton Prep School in Maine to get his academic situation in order. While he was there, Grant re-opened his recruiting. But the man who recruited him, former Missouri assistant coach Jeff Meyer, forgot about him, Grant said.
Grant, who is from Kissimmee, Fla., said he didn’t know how good his prep school was at basketball His school won consecutive New England Preparatory School Athletic Council Class A championships, in 2005 and 2006. After arriving there in September 2005, he told Meyer he wanted to re-open his recruiting.
“I told him I was not saying that I didn’t want to go to Missouri. It was still my No. 1, and I just wanted to see where I was at,” said Grant, who is now a freshman guard at Purdue. “He took offense at that. He got a little upset, and I could tell that in his voice. And he didn’t call me back until January (2006), a couple hours before a game. And, he was like, ‘How are you doing?’ And I took that as an insult that he was going to call after four or five months of nothing. No mail, no phone calls, no nothing, and then to just call me out of the blue and ask me how I’m doing. It seemed like he was just trying to edge me back in. And I told him I wasn’t interested.”
When Mike Anderson was hired to replace former Missouri coach Quin Snyder, Grant said associate head coach Melvin Watkins called him to ask if he was still interested in Missouri. Grant said no.
“We may have called him to see where he was in the process. At that time, we were just trying to see who was out there and who was available. Obviously, his name was still in our file,” Watkins said. “But it wasn’t one of those situations where we felt we had to have him.
“I think through the transition and all the things that happened, we kind of lost touch with him. With the transition, he was just one of the kids that slipped through the cracks.”
By the time Anderson was hired at Missouri, Purdue’s recruitment of Grant was nearly complete. He eventually signed with the Boilermakers.
“We went a different direction, and he went a different direction,” Watkins said. “And we wish him well.”
When Purdue coach Matt Painter was recruiting Grant, the Boilermakers were in the middle of a nine-win season. Usually, that could turn a player away from a school. But Grant’s coach at Bridgton, Whit Lesure, recommended Grant visit the campus and meet the players. It was a visit Grant wasn’t expecting much out of. He figured if he didn’t like Purdue, it would just be a visit to a school he didn’t like. Instead, it was the opposite.
“When I met them, they felt like they were my teammates,” Grant said. “I just felt comfortable with them.”
Grant has played in all eight of Purdue’s games this season, averaging 23 minutes of playing time. He has been one of the (7-1) Boilermakers’ first players off the bench and is averaging six points per game. And Watkins said he isn’t surprised by Grant’s success.
“We thought he was a competitor, and he has proven that,” Watkins said. “I think he’ll have a good career there.”
Grant, who is listed at 6-foot-4, said he brings defense and energy to the Boilermakers. Ironically, those are the two most important qualities for a player to possess in Anderson’s system. It’s a system, Grant said, in which he could play well.
“I don’t think I’d have a tough time pressing because we pressure the ball 40 minutes a game, 94 feet,” Grant said. “I don’t think it would have been much of a transition for me to play there.”
Despite his history with the Tigers, Grant said he doesn’t hold a grudge against Missouri. He said watching the Tigers beat Arkansas reminded him how much he liked Jason Horton, Marshall Brown and Kalen Grimes. Grant, though, wouldn’t say whether he was cheering for or against the Tigers. Instead, he enjoyed watching a good game.
“I don’t have anything against Missouri,” Grant said. “It made me feel like home when I went there. I don’t have any spite or anything else against them.”