Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Basketball Recruiting Centers on Guards

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Basketball Recruiting Centers on Guards

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, MO. - Torrence Watson savored watching Missouri's 20-win season and the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years. But now that it's over, the four-star guard from St. Louis understands his potential role next season.

In departing seniors Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett, the Tigers lose 40.7 percent of their points from a team that relied heavily on perimeter scoring. No team in the Southeastern Conference leaned on 3-point shooting as much as Mizzou -- 38.3 percent of its points came from behind the arc, more than all but four teams in the six major conferences. Nobody pulled the trigger from deep more than Robertson and Barnett, one of only two SEC tandems to shoot 40 percent from outside the arc.

That's where Watson enters the discussion. The area's leading high school scorer each of the last two seasons and the state's Gatorade player of the year from Whitfield School, Watson ended his season in the Class 3 quarterfinals but already has tailored his offseason workouts on perimeter shooting.

Watson, who signed with Mizzou in November, averaged 31.9 points per game as a senior and had three 50-point games.

"I'll hopefully be able to help the team on both ends," Watson said this week. "Coach (Cuonzo) Martin is a real defensive-minded guy, but I think I can come in as a freshman, come off screens and curls and be able to shoot the ball and finish as well."

Knowing Robertson and Barnett would be out of eligibility at season's end -- and with 6-foot-10 freshman Michael Porter Jr. a possible NBA draft lottery pick -- Martin's staff targeted perimeter players for the 2018 class, signing three last fall who could figure into the rotation immediately.

Watson, a 6-5 shooter, headlined the class that included 6-5 guard Javon Pickett, a 2017 Belleville East graduate, and K.J. Santos, a 6-8 forward who can play inside or outside.

Santos started 30 games at Illinois-Chicago in 2016-17, left the program last year and sat out this season. In February, Mizzou landed a verbal commitment from Chicago high school point guard Xavier Pinson.

With the spring signing period set to start April 11, Martin continues to pursue Webster Groves' four-star point guard Courtney Ramey, the Missouri coaches' Class 5 player of the year.

For now, the four-man class, ranked No. 44 by Rivals.com, doesn't have the luster of last year's top-five class. But the rookies should have chances to contribute immediately, especially in the backcourt and along the wings. Big men Michael and Jontay Porter could leave for the NBA -- underclassmen have until April 22 to enter the draft and can pull out until May 30 if they don't sign with agents. But no matter what the Porters do, the Tigers return just one healthy scholarship guard, Jordan Geist.

Among the newcomers, Watson could emerge as an instant impact scorer at shooting guard. …

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