RAPID FIRE: Reaction to a Wild Weekend in Mizzou Athletics

It wasn’t supposed to be a dramatic weekend for Missouri Tigers fans….but that’s sure how it turned out.

Mizzou supporters were left with more questions than answers when the smoke had cleared after Cuonzo Martin’s Tiger Basketball squad fell 77-75 to the visiting Florida Gators. Let’s jump back to Friday, January 5th and try to piece together the weekend that was for Mizzou. (By the way, I am writing this post from my iPhone while my laptop is experiencing difficulties…..so apologies if there are any bugs with this post)

Blake Harris says he plans to transfer; leaves program

Freshman guard Blake Harris, who was among the extra recruitment prizes for first-year coach Cuonzo Martin following Michael Porter Jr.’s commitment to Missouri, announced that he plans to transfer from the University and effectively left the team.

“We will support him in any way possible” Coach Martin said in a statement Friday.

Harris, the Chapel Hill, NC native, was ranked among the top 100 prospects out of high school by ESPN. He originally committed to the University of Washington but was granted a release from his commitment after the firing of then head coach Lorenzo Romar. Harris then followed Michael Porter Jr. to Missouri. Porter was said to have recruited Harris personally.

Harris is the second member of his recruiting class to announce his decision to leave the program this year. Fellow freshman guard C.J. Roberts transferred to Texas Tech University this past December (Missouri placed the redshirt on Roberts this season, suggesting that his playing time would be minimized with a loaded back court).

I have to say guys — I was shocked when reading this news Friday morning. Point guard play has been an area of concern for this young team. At times the position has appeared to be on a “by committee” status. But when watching it looked like Harris had the best shot at securing the 1 guard spot. It’s disappointing to watch a kid as talented as Blake to walk away mid-season. One may point to key losses to West Virginia in the AdvoCare Invitational, where the Missouri guards buckled under pressure from Bob Huggins’ team (Harris played only 6 minutes), and to Illinois where Harris has his best performance with 10 points and 22 minutes played.

Harris’ ball handling and ability to cut into the paint — an area that hasn’t been this team’s strong suit all year — will surely be missed. But in an attempt to make myself feel better I would offer that poor attitude may have been a factor in his decision to transfer. Harris didn’t make it a secret that he was unhappy about playing time. In a call with the Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter he said,

“Of course I’d like to be playing more, but that’s not all of it. “I just think it would be better if we went our separate ways.”

**Deep sigh**

Harris gave the basketball equivalent of “I think we owe it to ourselves to date other people” on his way out the door. But before you cast Mizzou as the ultimate ugly step-sister consider this: Blake transferred high schools multiple times. He was rumored to not support his other teammates while on the bench. He displayed negative body language at times when being taken out of the game. Read into that how you will. It could be surmised that Harris and Coach Martin didn’t see eye-to-eye and maybe we shouldn’t have been as shocked when he made the decision to transfer. Either way, I wish the young man the best of luck in the future. I always strive not to rip into 18 or 19-year-old kids, though it is not easy at times.

Derek Dooley named next Mizzou Football Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach

Just as we thought our news day wasn’t busy enough, Mizzou announced Friday that former Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley would join Coach Barry Odom’s staff as an Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach. Dooley has most recently been on the sidelines in the NFL, where he coached Wide Receicers for the Dallas Cowboys. Dooley has served as a graduate assistant, assistant coach, head coach and athletic director for the University of Georgia, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana State, Souther Methodist and Tennessee programs. He’s known for producing a pro-style offense, which may benefit Missouri QB Drew Lock, should he decide to return for his senior season in 2018.

As it goes these days, I went to the one place that tells me how I should feel when I am unsure about a topic — Twitter.

Folks, certain Missouri fans are NOT happy with the Derek Dooley hire. These “fans” have come out of the woodwork and behind the screens of their devices to declare the season as “finished” and the hire “a disaster”. But my favorite of these social media trolls are the ones who penned their Tweets “I am from Tennessee and I know that….”. Give me a break! Tennessee fans, in light of the dumpster fire which was started during their search for a head coach, now have the authority to tell Missouri fans how they should feel about their own school’s hire. Okay.

Nevertheless, I searched for some more prominent opinion on the OC hire and came away with this. Love him or hate him, Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage is a man who knows Tennessee Vols football, and SEC football in general. He shared some thoughts on Mizzou’s newest staffer.

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Former Missouri WR L’damian Washington offered this.

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For the record, I would be elated if #2 joined Dooley as an Offensive assistant some day. But to summarize, it is far too early to say whether Dooley is the right hire or not. There will always be those strongly in favor and strongly opposed to a coaching decision. My take on the matter – I trust in the mind of AD Jim Sterk. Sterk has seemed to right the ship after the shaky tenure of Mack Rhodes, and MU Athletics has found its way back into relevancy again. The man who since his time as AD has passed the approval of the south end zone expansion project, overseen construction of new baseball and softball facilities, and pulled the trigger on hiring Cuonzo Martin and effectively securing the commitment of the #1 recruit in the nation, is more fit to insert an OC than the Twitter trolls. Here’s to Drew Lock coming back home and putting up video game numbers in the SEC for one more season.

Mizzou falls to Florida in final seconds

On Saturday, January 6, Mizzou Basketball lost to Florida 77-75 after the Gators’ Chris Chiozza broke up a pass from MU guard Jordan Geist and took it coast to coast to score an uncontested layup with 0.1 seconds remaining. The Saturday afternoon contest was a thriller — Missouri led by as many as 12 points but the game was very much back and forth late in the second half. CBC High School grad Jordan Barnett went off for a career-high 28 points and shot 67% from 3-point range.

Folks….this one hurt. Even while the score was close, this writer felt during the entirety of the game that Mizzou would come away with a 2-0 conference record. Instead, heartbreak. An all too familiar feeling for the True Sons and Daughters.

I am a bit of a fan boy when I write about Missouri sports, I admit. I also try to take an optimistic approach when watching the Tigers. So let me offer some healthy cynicism in the wake of this loss. Coach Martin butchered the end of this game. With the score tied 75-75, Missouri called a timeout with 17 seconds remaining. Coming out of the timeout, the ball wasn’t in the hands of Kassius Robertson or Jordan Barnett, but instead Jordan Geist. Geist’s turnover cost the Tigers the game. It appeared that Mizzou wanted the last shot. Why, then, Martin didn’t trust his two studs to put the game in their hands, and at the very worst send the game to overtime with a missed shot I do not understand. It’s very possible that this loss will eliminate Missouri from entering the NCAA Tournament when selections are made come March.

Yes, this one hurt quite a bit. But let’s all of us take solace in the fact that this year is different than other recent years. This year, it matters more. This year the Mizzou brand is relevant again. Sure, much of it is due to the injured Michael Porter Jr. coming home to Columbia. But for a program that squeaked out 8 wins last year, no one can deny that things have improved and improved quickly. How much further they can go in 2018, though, remains to be seen.

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