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Martin addresses perimeter with Mizzou signing class

November 11, 2017 GMT

COLUMBIA, MO. • Basketball recruit K.J. Santos committed to Missouri in July sight unseen. On Wednesday, he signed his national letter of intent to play for the Tigers without ever stepping foot on campus. Santos, who played last season at Illinois-Chicago, will visit Mizzou for the first time Friday.

Why sign before visiting the school?

“I really like the coaches,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview. “From the day I signed with a juco they recruited me really hard back in the summer. I’d hear from (assistant coach Cornell) Mann and (Cuonzo) Martin every single day. I built a really good relationship with them. I trust and believe in what they’re doing at Missouri.”

Starting Wednesday, college basketball recruits for the 2018 class could submit letters of intent through Nov. 15. Missouri is expected to sign three players during the early signing period, including two local prospects. Former Belleville East guard Javon Pickett also signed Wednesday. Whitfield School senior Torrence Watson plans to sign with the Tigers on Thursday.

Pickett, a 6-4 three-star All-Metro selection last year, currently attends Sunrise Christian Academy, a prep school in Wichita, Kan. He originally signed with Illinois last November but asked out of his letter of intent after the school fired coach John Groce.

Pickett, an All-Metro selection last year, currently attends Sunrise Christian Academy, a prep school in Wichita, Kan. He originally signed with Illinois last November but asked out of his letter of intent after the school fired coach John Groce.

“The experience has been great, playing against college players and juco players,” Pickett said. “Just being able to go up and down the court against guys that are stronger and taller, like it’ll be next year. I’m just getting used to the pace of the game, the speed, and learning me things I need to work on. It’s a learning process.”

Pickett played off the ball on the wing in high school but has played more point guard at Sunrise Christian and said he believes he’ll be prepared to take on a ball-handling role at Mizzou next year if necessary.

Watson, a four-star guard who led the area in scoring as a junior last season, committed to Ohio State in July then changed his mind to Mizzou in September. Watson will sign his letter of intent Thursday during a ceremony at Whitfield.

Watson, a 6-5 four-star guard who led the area in scoring as a junior last season, committed to Ohio State in July then switched to Mizzou in September. Watson, also an All-Metro choice last year, will sign his letter of intent Thursday during a ceremony at Whitfield.

Missouri’s class of three ranks No. 44 nationally by Rivals.com and sixth in the Southeastern Conference. Schools can sign more players during the spring signing period starting April 11.

• MIZZOU CHAT: Dave Matter Live at 11 a.m.

Santos, a 6-8 perimeter player originally from Geneva, Ill., left UIC after the season and enrolled at Tallahassee Community College. He said he’s redshirting this season and works out on his own in Florida. Santos started 30 games for UIC last season, averaging 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Tallahassee Community College coach Mark White confirmed in an email that Santos has not been part of his team for the last month and will finish out his classes at the end of the semester then transfer elsewhere.

Santos will have three years of eligibility at Mizzou.

“They said I have a chance to come in and play right away,” he said. “But I also like how fast they’re going to play and how they’re rebuilding the team and how they’re going to be really good this year and in the future. I want to be part of that.”

Santos was a three-star prospect out of Sunrise Christian Academy and held offers from Georgia Tech, Iowa, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wichita State and Xavier, according to multiple recruiting outlets.

Santos has played for the Under-17 Puerto Rican national team and has discussed suiting up for the national team next summer for an international tournament in China, he said. Santos’ father, Jose Santos, has played for the Puerto Rico national team, as well as his Santos’ sisters, Ashley and Sidney, both Division I players at Louisiana Tech and Oakland, respectively. Their mother, Lori Santos, played at Wichita State.

With his size and versatility, Santos could help the Tigers replace current senior Jordan Barnett and freshman Michael Porter Jr., should he choose to enter the NBA draft, as expected.

“I wouldn’t hold myself to one position,” Santos said. “I can play and guard I would say four positions. With my size and skill set, I can bring a lot to the team. I can really stretch the floor. I can get to the basket. I’ve got a good midrange game. I can handle (the ball.) At the same time I can play inside. If there’s a smaller defender I can post him up. If there’s a big guy on me I can use my size, skill set and speed on the perimeter.”

PINGETON ADDS VERSATILE SCORER

The Missouri women’s basketball team added some versatility in Grace Berg, a 6-1 perimeter player from Indianaola, Iowa, who signed with the Tigers Wednesday.

“We’ve been recruiting Grace for a long time,” MU coach Robin Pingeton said. “She’s a special young lady. She definitely fits our Mizzou style of play. She’ll be a great motion offense kid. … High basketball IQ, can score the ball inside and out. Just another strong, versatile perimeter player, and much like Sophie (Cunningham) and Amber (Smith) can probably play anywhere, two, three or four.”

Berg is rated a five-star prospect and the No. 37 player in the country by espnW’s 2018 recruiting rankings. The two-time Class 5A first-team all-state player averaged 20.4 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.