Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed four developments for the Tigers’ roster on Tuesday:
Jontay Porter is staying in the NBA draft and won’t return to school.
Jeremiah Tilmon is not going through the NBA draft evaluation process and will stay at MU for his junior season.
Ronnie Suggs has entered the transfer portal and will play elsewhere as a graduate transfer.
Parker Braun will be promoted form walk-on to scholarship player for 2019-20.
That’s a lot to digest but none come as a major surprise. Here’s more from Martin’s first formal visit with the media since the Tigers were eliminated from the SEC tournament in March.
Porter, with his surgically repaired knee (times two), is staying in the NBA draft.
Martin on Porter: “Jontay, we’re excited for him. Obviously he made his own decision. I think it’s a great decision for him. No doubt in my mind he’ll be part of a (NBA) team whether he gets drafted or not. I’ve said it before, but if he’s healthy he has the ability to play the way he was playing before he got injured and has the ability to start for some teams in the NBA, certainly at the five position. He can play the four as well. Just a talented guy. The biggest thing for him is getting healthy. I don’t think there’s a problem.”
No surprise on Porter’s status. He wasn’t expected to return for his third year at Mizzou after tearing his ACL last fall and those expectations didn’t change when he tore the same ligament again in March. Porter is expected to attend the NBA Draft Combine next week in Chicago, where he can’t work out but can meet with teams. The draft is June 20. He’s been widely projected as a second-round pick.
Martin also said he anticipates Michael Porter Sr. staying on the team’s staff. Again, not a surprise. Porter has one more year left on his three-year contract, and if MU should let him go the school would be on the hook for $300,000 of his $375,000 salary. It’s still possible Martin shuffles some staff assignments this offseason.
Tilmon is returning for his junior season.
Martin on Tilmon: “He’s staying here in school. We got great feedback on him. He understands some things. We had some issues with some paperwork there in his case. We worked with the NBA for two straight weeks to get him in (the draft), and they said, obviously, ‘We can’t do it.’”
We wrote about Tilmon’s motivation behind wanting to test the NBA draft waters a few weeks ago, but once the NBA confirmed it had not received his paperwork by last month’s deadline, it was unlikely the league would make an exception and add him to its early entrant list. He wanted the opportunity to work out for NBA teams but he’ll have to settle for using the 2019-20 season as his NBA audition for the 2020 draft.
Walk-ons Braun, Suggs are headed in opposite directions.
Martin on Braun: “Parker has a chance to be a good player,” Martin said. “For him it’s spending extra time in the gym. He learned that part. He’s probably picked up 16-17 pounds from the time he stepped on campus. (He has) comfort on the perimeter shooting the ball. He’s a good athlete around the rim and finishing, but he’s working on finishing when it’s not a dunk. (He’s working on) face-up moves off the dribble, similar to what Jeremiah has to work on. He’s got a good feel for the game. He has a good understanding how to play the game. I just think with reps, conditioning, getting bigger and stronger, I think he’ll be better.”
The more Martin saw Braun outplay some scholarship players in practices last season the more he was convinced he could help this team as part of a rotation. A scholarship was always a possibility for the 6-8 forward. With a shortage of established players in the frontcourt Braun will have a chance to compete for immediate playing time.
Suggs went on scholarship at the semester break last January but Martin made it clear it wasn’t a permanent move. He made some pivotal plays in games last year off the bench, but with the two guards joining the rotation this year (Dru Smith, Mario McKinney) and only one leaving the team (Jordan Geist), playing time might have been sparse for Suggs this season. He’ll be the second transfer to leave the team this offseason, following forward K.J. Santos.
Not long after Martin met with reporters Tuesday, one of his top targets this offseason committed to the Tigers: Kobe Brown, a 6-7, three-star forward from Huntsville, Ala., committed to MU during a ceremony at Lee High School. Brown signed with Texas A&M last fall but opened his recruitment after the school fired Billy Kennedy. He chose the Tigers over Vanderbilt, Minnesota and Penn State.
That leaves Mizzou with one open scholarship for 2019-20. Martin said he doesn’t expect any more roster turnover. Here’s what the scholarship count looks like for the coming season:
Juniors: Jeremiah Tilmon, Dru Smith, Mark Smith, Mitchell Smith
Sophomores: Javon Pickett, Xavier Pinson, Torrence Watson
Redshirt freshmen/freshmen: Parker Braun, Mario McKinney, Tray Jackson, Kobe Brown