posted on April 18, 2012 00:00
Missouri loses its top three scoring leaders from the 2011-2012 season, but suddenly Frank Haith's coaching tenure is looking less and less like a one-and-done sensation.
That's what happens when former five-star recruit Alex Oriakhi decides to spend his final year of eligibility in Columbia. Oriakhi played his first three years at Connecticut, where he helped lead the Huskies to a national title as a sophomore in 2011. However, with sanctions keeping UConn out of the 2013 postseason, Oriakhi was able to leave Storrs without losing a year of eligibility.
Oriakhi is the latest transfer to join Haith's re-built 2012-2013 lineup. Along with Oriakhi, Missouri received transfers from Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Earnest Ross (Auburn), Jabari Brown (Oregon) and Danny Feldmann (Columbia). Oriakhi, Bell and Ross are slated to become immediate contributors, with Feldman coming off the bench to add low-post depth. Brown will be in the mix once he becomes eligible after the first semester ends.
Haith's move for transfers is a brilliant idea on his part. He inherited a senior-laden roster. He added a new offense. He added new chemistry to a familiar team. But, now that team is largely gone.
Haith already bought himself plenty of time with a 30-win season, regardless of the first-round upset in the national tournament. He answered a lot of questions about his ability after middling success at Miami. But, critics remain.
It wasn't his roster, they argued. Wait till you see how he does with his OWN players.
By adding five transfers to join Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon and a healthy Laurence Bowers, Haith doesn't have to rely on an influx of freshmen for key minutes. Haith doesn't have to worry that he may not sign a top-ten recruiting class for 2012. He doesn't have to force recruits like Negus Webster-Chan, Ryan Rosburg, Domonique Bull and Stefan Jankovic into the pressure cooker that is college basketball.
Instead, Haith can rely on Dixon, Pressey and Bowers to combine with the new transfers, and JUCO recruit Tony Criswell, to provide experience and continuity for the first seven spots in his rotation. Haith can ease his freshmen into his system, and see who flourishes.
With Oriakhi and the rest of the transfers, Missouri will enter the season as a top-20 team. Expectations will be higher than they were at the start of the 2011-2012 season, but he now has a roster of players that can handle the added pressure. He has a good mix of talent, potential and proven winners.
Of course, Haith can't rely on transfers forever. He's already proven to be a better coach than his predecessor at Missouri. Now, he'll have to go out and prove he can recruit better than Mike Anderson. By adding those transfers, however, Haith has set his team up for back-to-back big-winning seasons, and that's the best recruiting tool.
If you win it, the stars will come.