Mizzou chat with Dave Matter

Mizzou chat with Dave Matter

Bring your Tigers football, basketball and recruiting questions, and talk to Mizzou beat writer Dave Matter in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Thursday.

    Happy Thursday, Mizzou chatters. Glad you could enjoy our weekly get-together. I'll take your questions here for the next couple hours.
    Explain Axel Okongo to us, please. How does he wind up in a Power 5 program?
    Good question. Michael Porter Sr. discovered him in Chicago last spring. Here's what I wrote last summer when he signed with Mizzou:
    "In April he took part in Evan Turner’s Prospect Showcase in Chicago, where he was spotted by Brandon Goble, a scout and founder of Juco Advocate, an organization that connects prospects with college programs. Goble, Erickson said, told Mizzou assistant Michael Porter Sr. about the 7-foot Frenchman. From there, Okongo worked out for coaches at another showcase in Texas — he had to borrow money from a relative for both trips — and began to draw interest from a wide range of Division I programs. He visited Morgan State and Mizzou and also heard from Arizona State, Oregon State and LSU, among others."
    The staff at his Wyoming junior college really liked him, even though he didn't post impressive stats. He is and always has been a major project. Mizzou had a vacant scholarship when Jontay Porter entered the NBA draft, and even though Martin indicated they might pocket the scholarship for 2019-20, they took a flier on the 7-footer. 
    It's a gamble, obviously, but they only have him for two years - if that. If Mizzou really wants to use the scholarship for next year on a different player Martin can have that conversation with Okongo and help him land somewhere else. 
    So many questions, so few answers. McKinney?
    Baffling comment by McKinney that he didn't know the MBB had other guards.
    Martin has declined to elaborate on what got McKinney suspended. I asked the basketball staff if they could shed some light on the situation and that's not something they want to discuss. I understand from their viewpoint. I also reached out to McKinney's family and his father declined to elaborate on what happened. The team clearly doesn't want to air the player's dirty laundry while he's trying to find another school. It wasn't a legal situation and there's no sign that it had anything to do with academics. It dawned on me the last few days that McKinney is the only player who was never available for interviews since he arrived on campus last summer. He also declined interview requests when I reached out to him when he committed to Mizzou. 
    From what he's posted on social media, he clearly wasn't pleased with his role on the team through the first two months of the season. I'm not sure why he would have expected to play over veteran players at his position. Martin and the staff clearly didn't believe he was suited to play on the perimeter - his jump shot is very much a work in progress - and if you can't shoot from outside at this level and you're his size (6-2ish), you have to play point guard. He's not playing the point over Dru Smith and Pinson. He never came close to earning minutes over either of them. 
    Do you think a reduction in ticket prices, especially for the non-conference games, would help get more people to football games? Realistically, is that something Mizzou would consider doing?
    No. I don't think ticket prices are what's keeping people at home. And if that's the reason, fans need to take a look at prices around the SEC and the other Power 5 conferences and realize Mizzou's prices are much less expensive. Mizzou already cut prices for several sections for the 2019 season.
  • Except for the Florida game, the men's basketball team looks beyond bad, on offense. I think most observers hope the mean would be halfway between the Florida game and what we get most nights (so, maybe 38/39% 3-point shooting; 52/55% overall FG% and holding turnovers to 15 or fewer). So, I guess I have two questions: any explanation for why this team continues to struggle so much in that aspect of the game and how does Counzo recruit these elite players (if, indeed, he wants them - some coaches aren't in for one-and-dones) if it seems (again, just my perception) that he is not just a defense-first coach but one for whom that's 90% of his calculations for every game? The elite guys want to score.
    Martin's priority is defense and rebounding, but that doesn't mean he doesn't care about offense. After the Florida game he made the point countless times that MU has to play that style to win games: attacking the rim and drawing fouls and getting the ball inside-out to create open looks from 3. Shots fell in that game at a higher rate than they'll probably fall in any other game, but there was another essential difference: MU didn't turn the ball over. The Tigers played more up-tempo at times but still only turned it over 11 times vs. the Gators. They had 13 turnovers in the first half alone at Mississippi State and never got into their offense. It's hard to come close to shooting well if you're giving away four out of every 10 possessions without getting off a shot.
    Mario McKinney tweeted something about not being told that there were five other guards he had to compete with for playing time. All five of the guards were returning players. Appears to be either a lame excuse or he lacked the ability to research the roster of the of the team he committed to.
    I saw the comment and included it in my story the other day. It's not a very good excuse. Three of the five guards were also from the St. Louis area. Clearly he met the guards during his recruiting visit. I can't imagine they all introduced themselves as seniors. My hunch is - and I can only make educated hunches when it comes to a player who's never done interviews - is that like most young players he expects to play in the NBA sooner than later and believed he's good enough to play over any returning guards on the roster.
    How can the team look so good and shoot so well vs Florida but be so disinterested and sloppy vs Miss St. Coaching issues? Players on drugs?
    How can South Carolina lose to Boston University, beat Virginia, lose to Stetson and beat Kentucky? This is college basketball in 2020. There are some very good teams but nobody is infallible and everyone is vulnerable when they're not shooting well, taking care of the ball or off their game defensively. 
    I thought in Tuesday's game Missouri really struggled with Mississippi State's length. Perry and Ado are huge at 6-10 and 6-11, but their perimeter players made it difficult for MU's guards to get comfortable. Woodard plays on the wing at 6-7. Carter has good size at 6-4. Weatherspoon is only 6-2 but is a physical matchup. All that length and physicality seemed to make MU's ball-handlers uncomfortable. And when MU managed to get off a shot before turning it over they rarely connected. 
    I made a comment a few weeks ago that I think I needed to word better. The question was about HFC Drink ... I realize he will be here for several years, no matter how this February and next December's signing classes come out. My question was, in your opinion, how much does a fast start mean to both fans and the players he's looking to recruit, in today's short-attention span/quick-to-pull-the-trigger world? Do you suspect fans and potential recruits will give him time to build or will this class and the early signing period for next class become definitive in the judgment of who Drink is and can be?
    I think Drinkwitz's start on the field will matter more with fans than his start on the recruiting trail. Once the games kick off next fall, no one's going to measure this team by who he signed in December and February. If he's having to rely on a lot of newcomers, that's not a good sign. He'll be able to generate some excitement with early success on the field. A strong recruiting class - at least measured by the rankings - probably isn't going to sell tickets, at least not for 2020.
    I would say at this point in the Mens bball season the realistic goal is probably just to make the NIT. Then you get pretty much everyone back next year and you have to make the Tourney then! Thoughts?
  • I still think it's too early to rule anything out for this year, but it's trending in that direction. They can't have more than a few more outcomes like Tuesday to have any prayer of making the NCAA bubble. And they'll have to pull off some upsets along the way. Maybe a win at LSU or Arkansas or a home win over Auburn. ESPN's latest bracketology only had five SEC teams in the NCAA field: UK, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas and Florida. Tennessee was among the first eight teams out. I'd imagine Alabama and Mississippi State would be next in line, followed by Georgia and Mizzou. Even though the selection committee doesn't take into account conference membership, realistically MU would have to climb over a handful of other SEC teams to have any shot at the NCAAs.
    So if we're eliminating that possibility, then, yes, the NIT would be the next-best goal. That's not going to excite anyone in the fan base, but it's better than staying home altogether for the second year in a row and the fifth time in six years. 
  • Now that everyone has seen the video of Odell Beckham handing money to thw winning LSU players of Monday night’s football championship game, my question is which the more egregious NCAA violation - paying off players for winning championships or having a rogue tutor turning herself in? I bet LSU gets off with a slap on the wrist and life goes on for the elite football schools while lower tier schools feel the full force of the NCAA’s wrath. I have no doubt the NCAA will do nothing despite the blatant violation caught on vide. Maybe the IRS can get involeved if the LSU players who got this money don’t report those bribes as income.
    Complicating OBJ's problems more is the latest news: There's a warrant out for his arrest for spanking a police officer in the LSU locker room after the game. What an absolute knucklehead. His former school's greatest moment and he shows up and takes away attention from the current players and coaches by acting like an idiot. Now, it's fair to have that opinion while at the same time believing too much is being made of him handing out cash. It's clearly against the NCAA rules, but LSU seems to be on top of it - and obviously the school didn't know going into the game that he planned that stunt. There's no logical reason the team should be punished. So, to answer your question, I believe it's more egregious to have a tutor doing the work of many athletes, even if the school didn't initially know about or coerce her into doing their work. That went on for more than a year and somehow went undetected. OBJ was handing out bills for a few minutes while the coaches/administration were clearly occupied celebrating a national championship.
    How long does Petrino stay at Missouri State? I say two years, three tops. And that's because another FBS school will hire him.
    Agreed. Unless he's a total flop and that job proves to be too difficult. I suspect he'll take the first borderline decent FBS job that comes his way. Some school out there will overlook all his past transgressions and pay him millions of dollars if he can coax five or six wins out of the Bears.
    There was no attendance figure in the box score of the MU-FLA game last Saturday. There were attendance figures for the Illini-Rutgers and SLU-Richmond games. The ESPN cameras showed the seats behind both benches and it looked like there were a lot of empty seats. That could be due to the bad weather. I hope it was not because MU fans have given up already after MU’s loss to TN.
    The listed attendance was 9,001. Clearly there weren't that many people in the building, but the roads were covered in ice and snow. I can't imagine too many people from out of Columbia made the trip. Ben Frederickson made the drive from St. Louis and said I-70 was in bad shape. Also classes aren't in session until next week.
    Any Josh Christopher news? One of Coach Cuonzo's biggest strengths was supposed to be recruiting and, other than MPJ, Jontay and Tilmon, it's been light.
    Nothing substantial to report. This has been an unconventional recruiting story. He's clearly in no rush to make a decision or even take visits. Michigan, UCLA and Arizona State are the competition. He's visiting ASU this weekend, he tweeted today. His brother Caleb plays for the Sun Devils.
  • is Mizzou looking to add any grad transfers to the FB team for the 2020 season?
    I wouldn't rule out the possibility. Devin Cochran, an offensive tackle from Vanderbilt, has entered the transfer portal as a grad transfer. He's been Vandy's left tackle and started 32 games over the last three years. I imagine there will be fierce competition for him. He's a Georgia native. His home-state Bulldogs could use some immediate help along the O-line.
    What do you see as the primary reasons for the difference in success between the Mizzou and Illinois basketball programs? On the surface they're similar situations over the past 3 years: mid-tier Power 6 schools, 3rd year coaches on rebuilding missions, similar talent levels in recruiting, and rosters that lean veteran. They did get Dosunmu and haven't had the injury issues that Mizzou has experienced, but year over year player development at Illinois seems generally better and the results are showing on the court. Thoughts?
    Player development almost always comes down to coaching - and not just the head coach but the entire staff. But Illinois' best players haven't been in the program very long. Dosunmu, Giorgi, Cockburn, Griffin and Feliz are all first- or second-year players in the program. Frazier and Nichols are the only core players on in the rotation who have been there longer than two years.  
    I'm not sure I'd give Illinois too much credit just yet. They've played really well since getting smoked at Michigan State. I had the Illini at No. 24 on my AP ballot this week. Quality wins over Wisconsin, Rutgers and Purdue. But I'm not sure I'd say the program is far ahead of Missouri by any means. They've just played better since the start of the new year. 
    Missouri's offense seems totally based on luck. If the shots go down, they could win big, if they don't, they lose big. The MSU game was the first time that seemed to affect them at the other end of the court. The obvious answer to this is get high percentage shots in the paint. Hard to do with Tilmon out, but how can a coaching staff get the guards to drive the hoop more for lay ups? I don't see how they turn it around with out that.
    I wouldn't call it luck. Sometimes that's the case but it's more than just random chance. Last year, for example, MU lost five of its six best shooting games from 3-point range. 
    Against Florida, Mizzou attacked the paint all night. Six of Dru Smith's eight buckets came at the rim - and on other possessions he attacked inside and got to the foul line. Kobe Brown and Mark Smith also passed on outside shots and attacked inside to score paint points or draw fouls. Yes, it helped that MU shot 63 percent from 3, but even if the Tigers shot 40 percent on the same number of shots and all things being equal otherwise, MU still wins that game by three. It was the paint touches and paint production that made a lot of that possible. 
    Is Dave Steckel looking to coach somewhere this year?
    I've traded some messages with Stec but I'm not sure what his plans are next. I don't think he's ready to retire, but he walks away from Springfield with a good amount of money.
    Given McKinney’s comments about not being told how many guards were on the roster when he was being recruited, could his leaving the program affect HCCM’s relationships with the Vashon staff, other PHL staffs or other STL staffs/influencers?
  • Nobody is going to believe he wasn't told how many guards were on the roster. Those same guards hosted him on his visit. He had to know three of them from St. Louis. No reasonable, rational person will buy that reason or complaint, whatever we're calling it. 
    I don't suspect McKinney's experience at Missouri will do any serious damage to MU's reputation in the market. (It's not like players from the area are flocking to Boone County anyway.) But, hypothetically, if a recruit from the region is seriously considering Mizzou and he sits down with his coaches and parents/guardians to weigh the factors for and against MU and other schools, do we really think one of those factors will be "Mario McKinney only played 8 minutes a game and got suspended?"
    Why do we always assume the St. Louis players who leave Mizzou will spoil recruiting for the program rather than assume the St. Louis players who stay and enjoy their time at Mizzou will help recruiting? Mark Smith, Watson, Tilmon, Pickett, etc.?
  • Much has been said and written about the need to recruit and retain local talent to be competitive in the major sports. But what about the recruits themselves???? Apparently Mario McKinney didn’t think he would have any competition for playing time. Last year’s prize recruit for SLU, Carte’Are Gordon has burned through 3 programs in three semesters. And the prize prior to that, Jeff Thomas, has endured several suspensions at Miami, and now has declared for the NFL after a pedestrian season. Where are these unrealistic expectations coming from ???
    Most high school recruits believe they'll be college stars and move on to the NBA. Very, very few of them will. Youthful ignorance, I guess.
    First, congrats on the MO sportswriter of the year award. Well-deserved.

    We heard from writers like you that some of the freshman WRs who didn't see the field this past year (Massey is the one I remember) were impressive in fall camp and practice. Combined with the poor showing from the 2019 WRs and graduations, should we expect some RS or true freshman WRs to compete for starting spots this coming year? If so, which ones do you feel are closest to seeing the field?
    It's hard to say with a new coaching staff, new offense, new position coaches, etc. I imagine it'll be a clean slate for everyone, which is the right thing to do coming off a dreadful offensive season. Jalen Knox, Kam Scott and Barrett Banister will have a leg up on the competition just based on their experience of playing in live games, but a new staff will come in with an open mind. Massey was really impressive in flashes in camp. He didn't have the most reliable hands, but he can make plays in the air that nobody else on the roster can. I was impressed with CJ Boone early before he had some injuries. I wouldn't write off Tauskie Dove either. He had one of the best catches of the year at Arkansas. As for true freshman, Mizzou only signed two, Jay Maclin and JJ Hester. Hester was the top-rated recruit among the December signees.
     
    And thank you for the kind words. We're not supposed to get too caught up in winning awards, but when you're measured against your peers around the state, that's a huge honor. 
    Does(n’t) HCCM get a pass for the two seasons in a row (one of them a NCAA Tournament appearance) that his team was gutted by a major injury to its star player?
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