Cuonzo Martin arrived in Columbia with a reputation as a recruiter — landing a class with two five stars (Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown) back at California will gain you some notoriety.
As Missouri’s coach, Martin has instead had far more success going the transfer route, bringing in numerous key contributors (Kassius Robertson, Mark Smith and Dru Smith) from other programs.
Martin dipped into the transfer well again this season, making Bowling Green wing Justin Turner a top priority. But this time, Missouri came up empty as Turner, the No. 2 ranked graduate transfer in the nation, opted to remain with Bowling Green for his final season in what was a major blow for Martin’s program.
Turner seemed to be Missouri’s top priority and would have been a great solution for the Tigers’ biggest issue: wing production. Junior Torrence Watson regressed during his sophomore season, and while he took strides as a defender, his lack of offensive ability put a major strain on Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson to create.
Fellow junior Javon Pickett is a good cutter and defender as well as a plus rebounder, but if Missouri wants to contend at the top of the SEC, Pickett can’t be relied upon for consistent offensive production. Martin mentioned he thought Tray Jackson could play minutes at the three, but the sophomore entered the transfer portal in March. There is a glaring need on the roster for a wing scorer and Turner, who averaged over 18 points per game over his last two seasons at BGSU, could have shored that up.
While staying at mid-major Bowling Green might surprise some, the move makes sense for Turner.
To start, he already has a familiarity with his teammates and coaches, something that might be key if COVID-19 continues to affect a team’s ability to practice together. If he stays healthy, he will likely finish next season as Bowling Green’s all-time leading scorer.
But more than anything else, Turner returns to a Bowling Green team that contended for the Mid-American Conference championship in 2019 and only lost one key contributor. For a school that hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 1968, qualifying for the tourney would be the perfect cap to Turner’s career in Ohio.
“I decided to go back to Bowling Green because I thought it was the best basketball decision for me,” Turner told 247Sports.
With Turner off the board and many graduate transfers already in new homes, Martin will need to move fast if he plans to fill Missouri’s final two open scholarship spots.
Missouri remains in the final four for Michigan transfer David DeJulius, who will announce his decision Wednesday. The former four-star recruit will have two years of eligibility remaining at his next destination, but unless the NCAA goes through with a possible rule change to allow one-time waivers for transfers in all sports ahead of the 2020-21 season, he will not be eligible next season. Iowa State and Marquette, the other two schools in Turner’s final four, join Missouri as finalists for DeJulius along with Cincinnati.
Tigers whiff on five-star prep recruit Josh Christopher
Josh Christopher sure does love the limelight.
For months, the blue-chip guard from California — ranked as the No. 11 player nationally by Rivals — had teased fans on social media about commitment dates and school interest. As his name trended nationally on Twitter on Monday with his plan to announce a college decision looming, it fit right in with his reputation of keeping college hoops fans on edge.
That included Missouri fans. Christopher, the cousin of Tigers’ Director of Athletic Performance Nicodemus Christopher, took his first collegiate visit there in October 2018 and put MU in his final five schools. And after Turner spurned the Tigers to return to Bowling Green on Monday, Missouri needed a jolt to its recruiting class.
That jolt will have to come at a later date.
Christopher committed to Arizona State late Monday night, choosing the Sun Devils over Michigan, UCLA and USC in addition to the Tigers. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard would’ve been coach Cuonzo Martin’s second commitment in the Class of 2020 along with 7-foot-3 center Jordan Wilmore.
He will go to Tempe and play with his brother, Caleb, who completed his freshman season with ASU this year. Christopher was widely projected to go to Ann Arbor before his announcement, with 11 reporters on recruiting site 247 Sports predicting that he would sign with the Wolverines on Monday.
The miss leaves Missouri with two open scholarship spots for the 2020-21 season, voids that were left open this past year by the midseason transfer of guard Mario McKinney Jr. and postseason transfer of forward Tray Jackson.