For the first time in two months, Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin spoke with assembled media at Mizzou Arena — and there was a lot to discuss.
With a crucial offseason ahead and multiple facets of the 2019-20 team up in the air, Martin confirmed a few developments and provided a clearer picture of what next season's team will look like.
Porter is gone; Tilmon to return
On Tuesday, Martin confirmed the inevitable: Jontay Porter will enter the NBA draft and will not return to Missouri next season.
After a stellar freshman campaign, a torn anterior cruciate ligament held Porter out for the 2018-19 season. He then re-tore the same ligament in March while rehabbing in Denver. With two significant knee injuries in a six-month window, many wondered whether a return to Columbia was in play. Martin made it clear that won't be the case.
"We’re excited for him," Martin said. "He made his own decision. I think it’s a great decision for him. There's no doubt in my mind he’ll be part of a team, whether he gets drafted or not. I’ve said it before, but when he’s healthy, if he has the ability to play the way he was playing before the injury, he has the ability, in my opinion, to start for some teams in the NBA."
Jeremiah Tilmon tried to test the NBA draft waters, but Martin said there were issues with paperwork, and the process didn't pan out. Tilmon probably wouldn't have been drafted anyway — he merely wanted feedback before his junior season. As expected, Tilmon will return to Missouri next season.
"We got great feedback," Martin said. "We had some issues with some paperwork there in his case, so we worked with the NBA for like two straight weeks to try get him in, and they said, 'We can’t do it.'"
In his sophomore season, Tilmon improved in scoring, rebounding and — most dramatically — free-throw shooting, but he still has issues to iron out. He fouled out of 10 games — the same number as his freshman year — and turned the ball over 69 times.
"I think the biggest key is his comfort with the ball, decision making, handling the ball," Martin said. "I think the biggest thing is being able to handle the ball — not necessarily between the legs and all that — but handling the ball and making a decision with the basketball."
Martin confirmed Tuesday what many had suspected: Parker Braun, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Overland Park, Kansas, has received a scholarship.
Braun did not play as a freshman last season, but he now joins Missouri's frontcourt along with the likes of Tilmon, Reed Nikko, Mitchell Smith and incoming freshman Tray Jackson.
"Parker has a chance to be a good basketball player," Martin said. "I think with him, spending extra time in the gym, he learned that part. He’s probably picked up 16 or 17 pounds from the time he stepped on campus. The comfort on the perimeter, shooting the basketball ... he’s a good athlete around the rim and finishing."
Martin also said Ronnie Suggs has entered the transfer portal and will no longer be with Missouri after graduating. Suggs picked up a scholarship midway through this past season after providing defense and energy off the bench.
With the departures of Porter and Suggs and the Braun news, Martin said Missouri has two open scholarships. But that was about an hour before Kobe Brown, a 6-foot-7 small forward who is ranked as the No. 248 overall prospect and No. 55 small forward in the Class of 2019 by 247Sports, announced his commitment to MU.
Now, Missouri has one open scholarship.
Martin talks incoming freshmen
Martin could not divulge any information on Brown, but he did speak on incoming freshmen Jackson and Mario McKinney.
McKinney, a 6-foot-2 guard out of St. Louis, will provide valuable depth for a Missouri backcourt composed of Javon Pickett, Torrence Watson, Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith. Jackson, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Detroit, should see playing time right away at the 4 in a limited Tigers frontcourt.
"I thought an area where we need to grow in is straight-line driving and attacking the rim," Martin said. "Both (Jackson and McKinney) can make a shot — obviously we’ll continue to work on 3-point shooting. I think they both have a desire to be good defenders. Both have a level of toughness to them. I think both can contribute right away."
Porter Sr. to remain with Missouri
With his sons Michael Jr. and Jontay no longer at Missouri, many wondered whether Michael Porter Sr. would remain an assistant coach at MU.
On Tuesday, Martin confirmed Porter Sr. will coach for a third season in Columbia.
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