Round Table Rock M: Let’s talk about Goku!

Welcome to Rock M Roundtable aka Editorial Bored aka Pregamin’ (but summer), a weekly Q&A where we’ll consult the editorial staff on all the big questions facing Mizzou Athletics this summer.

Let’s talk prep, baby. Let’s talk about Mo and East

Dennis Gates’ first enlistment class featured quite a few names, but few sparked the same excitement as the guys coming from the college prep classes.

This wasn’t much of a surprise, as Gates’ reputation preceded him. When Gates’ appointment first surprised Missouri fans, his ability to enlist in the JUCO circuit became one of the first widely circulated pieces of information. What was surprising was how quickly he was supported. Mohamed Diarra, whom one of the services regards as the best JUCO in the country, joined the Gates staff almost immediately. And although it took a little longer, JUCO’s best guard – Freight Gateway Freighter Sean East – made his way to Colombia as well.

So what should we make of Dennis Gates’ talent acquisition strategy? Especially with a few places on the list to fill out? We’ve rounded up some of Rock M’s brightest basketball minds to think about it?

While Missouri has indulged in college prep classes in the past, Dennis Gates has fully committed to the JUCO pipeline. Do you generally support this approach?

Jordan Prather – USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Harris, Basketball Editor: The always fun answer – it depends. Undoubtedly, the MU mined in that market in this list fluctuates. Whether he is truly a long-term source of talent remains an open question.

But there is a chance. As a result of the pandemic, recruits in the 2021 and 2022 classes have received short pay. Popular events were limited. High school seasons have been cut short. Solo skill work was more difficult to close. The first division coaching staff had to explore the laptops on live broadcasts. Meanwhile, competition for scholarship opportunities became fierce once the NCAA awarded the COVID Years Bonus and agreed to a one-time transfer exception.

Instead of betting on prep prospects, employees relied on transfers. The result: borderline recruits who are undervalued end up in college prep programs. The same phenomenon affected a segment of the major mid- and low-end converts who did not have a chair when the music stopped.

As each program battles into the transfer portal, there is a slew of talent in JUCO that remains untouched. You just need the right people to figure it out – the kind of people who occupy the coaching staff Dennis Gates. This goes beyond Kyle Smithpeters, too. For example, Dickie Knott spent the last two seasons at Gaston College. Charlton Young’s Rolodex includes some of the best JUCO programs in Florida, especially those in the panhandle area.

If MU wants to benefit from this pipeline regularly, it has the appropriate experience and business acumen.

Matt Watkins, guest speaker: There is no doubt that in the early stages, coach Gates fully embraced the Junior College circuit. Of the 16 positions it was looking to fill (3 associates; 13 scholarships), 2 are still open and 7 of the remaining 14 places are occupied by those with ties to the Junior College programme. This is a fairly large amount. However, the question for me is whether this is part of a quick turnover project or more of a long-term plan?

In terms of coaches with a junior background, I’m in favor of that. With the drastic changes that basketball has undergone in recent years, teams having to quickly rebuild rosters every spring, who better to help navigate those waters than the guys who had to do just that? Both Kyle Smithpeters and Dickie Knott had to flip rosters and constantly recruit due to getting players for a maximum of two years. It takes a constant assessment of talent to make it work. As for the players? Totally dependent on the player in question.

Parker Gillam, author of Beat: It’s definitely a risky road, as I’ve seen JUCO products go through with success or failure over the years. However, there is a reason why more and more coaches want to get into the ranks. The level of competition at the junior college level has improved recently, and there’s always a chance you’ll find Jimmy Butler, Ben Wallace or Avery Johnson.

With that, for me, I’d like to say it all 13 JUCO products live up to their expectations, at least in the first year. After all, there is a stark learning curve when jumping to the D-1 level. For me, it’s up to the coach. If Dennis Gates is fully invested in developing these people, I think he’s the type of coach who can get the best out of them. It starts by letting them show off their strengths that got them to this point, not change it into something else.

While JUCO recruits are often more complete than their high school countrymen, there is often a reason the player plays at the junior college level in the first place. How can fans in general calibrate their expectations for JUCO commitments?

Syndicate: The Garden City Telegram


Matthew Harris: My view owes more to perception than hard data, but I usually put the groundwork for adding JUCO at the same level as the higher transfer. Minutes and usage may go down a bit, but it either maintains or proves overall efficiency. Simply put, it is a solid rotating piece that has the potential to grow for a second or third option.

Again, I don’t have any hard numbers, but the variance in JUCOs seems to be wider as well. The range falls somewhere between Chris Duarte or Axel Kongo, with Keon Ellis as the middle ground. The player’s path to JUCO is also important. Is there a very high possibility but we had issues with qualifying? Are they an international prospect using Junior College as an agent for their program of preparation? Or are they an ex-Division player who uses downtime to reset their career?

At worst, you can use JUCO’s talent to fill niche needs on the roster while making a strategic bet every so often to become a staple in your rotation.

Matt Watkins: totally depends on the player and his situation. Being productive at Junior College can mean a lot of different things. While the Netflix series “Last Chance U” was certainly entertaining, I think it could hurt these players’ narratives. Not all athletes who choose the JUCO route fit into the categories portrayed at shows. There is an incredibly diverse background from which the schools draw talent. This is important in terms of expectations. Was the player due to commit to a higher major but missed a test result? Is the potential international player introduced to the American game through that circle? It’s really hard to come up with a one-size-fits-all approach. Having experienced employees in the ranks of JUCO is sure to improve your chances of getting into the right groups.

Parker Gillam: Once again, you can succeed with JUCO products. They usually come up with a flashy point for each game averages, grip the glass, or drop dimes all over the place. Usually, you can expect them to be half as productive as they were at the JUCO level, at least initially. The competition is much higher, and adapting to a new program can take some time. In general, get excited about their potential, but don’t expect them to hit the ground running at their normal pace. Patience is key, especially with this software that is going through a lot of change right now.

Gates has achieved huge success by signing two of the top JUCO recruits in the country – Mohamed Diarra and Shaun East. What do you expect from these two in their time as tigers?

NCAA Basketball: Bradley in Missouri

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Harris: After going through Sean East II’s metrics and watching five matches, I asked the scout if I was wrong about keeping expectations low for him as a scorer. “It would be difficult for him to achieve similar success at the Securities and Exchange Commission,” I was told. If a John A. Logan producer averaged 12 points and three assists, that would be a hit. These criteria assume that his 3-point hit improves and his assisting balance lowers Smage who moves into a major conference.

At Logan, East might start a group but spends most of it working off the ball. He wasn’t tasked with running volumes in a heavy dose of pick-and-roll. More often than not, the East attacked the gaps after a kick-off or a ball reversal and, as I mentioned when committing, relied on a floating beam as a terminator. As the shooter, East has shown the ability to punish defenders who come across the screen or skip sideways in a jump.

Therefore, I am not sure that the East could be such a threat of isolation outside the natural ebb and flow of possession. But it can cycle between protection points and combo points, and gives you some reliability while filling an urgent need for the situation.

For Diarra, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. While it fits the criteria of the modern Five, patience would be a virtue as it adds mass and adapts to the physicality of the SEC. Landing Jamarion Sharpe had given the program and Diarra that buffer – who chose to remain in Western Kentucky.

MU has two scholarship slots to find another player, and the three forwards on the roster – Kobe Brown, Ronnie Degray III, and Noah Carter – all have experience in the flesh on the block. However, minimal selections in the transfer gate and some proven volume will help make MU’s defensive blueprint look cool. Does that mean Diarra should spend more time learning on the go?

Matt Watkins: I expect both to be contributors in the near term. The East is a well-known commodity. Having played for UMass and Bradley in his first two years, there is a body of work to look for for clues to potential production levels. It is relatively rare in this respect. Add that he played Kyle Smithpeters in John A. Logan, and you have to believe the staff know exactly what to expect. My prediction is a rotation piece that records a fair amount of minutes. A lot of his game depends on having a space to work. Have his strokes really improved to become a real three-point throwing threat? If so, his drag and float game gets even more dangerous.

Diarra is more than unknown, at least to me. Good size, impressive skill profile. The question is physical. A year ago, SEC basketball was more likely to need body bags than number three in the scoring column. Chipwey, Kessler, Coleman, and Eason were all adult men. Add in out-of-conference matches with Kofi Cockburn and David McCormack, and Mizzou was really up against him playing with a small squad. While members of the opposition will change, Mizu Diarra, Carter and Shaw add as possibilities before the court. In order for Diarra to appear, he would have to demonstrate his ability to manipulate the physical element in what was once incredibly physical league.

Parker Gillam: As for Diarra, I agree he will have a blunt awakening at first, especially with some of the big guys he’ll have to face at the SEC. Garden City is a respected JUCO program, and his size and height at 6’10” are a great starting point. However, he will likely have to add some weight to his 215-pound frame, and it looks more like a long-term project than an immediate contributor.

In East’s case, I think he could be more than an early contributor. The physical tools are there, and it was already part of the D-1 (UMass) program. I can see him as a solid rotating piece playing his part. If he can continue to be an effective shooter, that could push him into something more. Overall, he’s not someone who will dominate the match offensively, but the hope is that he can be a scoring threat at all times on the ground.

Do you have a question for our staff about Mizzou Sports? Let us know in the comments and we’ll consider adding it to our next roundtable!

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