Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Martin's SEC Peers Share High Expectations for Rebuilt Mizzou

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Martin's SEC Peers Share High Expectations for Rebuilt Mizzou

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, MO. * After three last-place finishes in the Southeastern Conference and three years of empty seats at Mizzou Arena, the Missouri men's basketball program has grabbed the attention of the coaches around the league.

That's what happens when you hire an established head coach with SEC ties who then signs the nation's seventh-ranked recruiting class, including the No. 1 high school prospect.

The same coaches who are always in campaign mode to endorse SEC basketball prowess you might have heard the league landed three teams in the 2017 Elite Eight, including first-time Final Four participant South Carolina took turns Monday praising Mizzou's swift rebuild, which started March 15 when athletics director Jim Sterk hired Cuonzo Martin to pull the Tigers out of the Kim Anderson quagmire.

The SEC coach who knows Missouri's program best said the Tigers will "be on everybody's radar" this season.

"I'm excited for Cuonzo," said Arkansas' Mike Anderson, Mizzou's coach from 2006-11. "Timing is everything. He's been able to put together a tremendous recruiting class. We always (say) coaching is sometimes overrated. You've got to have players."

Martin has reconstructed Mizzou's roster with five newcomers, headlined by 6-10 forward Michael Porter Jr., the country's top-rated recruit and winner of multiple national player of the year awards. Mike Anderson was still coaching at Mizzou when the Porter family arrived in Columbia in 2010. Porter Jr., who played at Father Tolton High School before moving to Seattle for his senior year, was 12 at the time and starting sixth grade.

"I can remember when the kid was 6 feet (tall)," Anderson said. "He shot up like a cannon."

Anderson also noted Mizzou's addition of 6-11 freshman forward Jeremiah Tilmon, a four-star prospect from East St. Louis expected to immediately contribute inside, plus the return of junior point guard Terrence Phillips and MU's other core veterans. The combination of MU's impact rookies and seasoned players has Martin's peers on alert, especially considering Martin's SEC experience. During Martin's three years as Tennessee's head coach (2011-14), only Kentucky's John Calipari and Florida's Billy Donovan won more games in the SEC than Martin's 63 victories.

"Cuonzo has been through the wars of the SEC," Mike Anderson said. "He knows what it takes to compete at a high level. I'm sure he'll turn it around really quick. He's got some good players there. Missouri has done a good job bringing in a guy that can recognize talent. He can get those guys to play at a high level. All it does is continue to put another team that's going to be on everybody's radar and have a chance to play postseason basketball at the end of the year."

For years the SEC has discussed ways to improve the league's basketball reputation and land more teams in the NCAA Tournament. …

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