Fresh Faces: Mizzou Athletics newcomers you should know

Jim Sterk, Cuonzo Martin and Michael Porter Jr. lead Missouri into the future.

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Jim Sterk

“He is just what Mizzou needs at this time,” interim Chancellor Hank Foley said in a news release when new athletic director Jim Sterk was hired in August 2016. Sterk has quickly proven that statement true, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Before coming to Mizzou, Sterk was the athletics director at San Diego State for five seasons. During that time, SDSU earned 32 team conference championships, the most successful stretch in the school’s history. For his efforts, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics awarded Sterk the 2015-16 Under Armour AD of the Year.

The high point of Sterk’s Mizzou tenure thus far is the hiring of men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin. Sterk reportedly had his eyes on Martin as soon as the decision was made to move on from former coach Kim Anderson.

The hire immediately paid dividends. Nine days after the hiring of Martin, Columbia native Michael Porter Jr. was released from his letter of intent with Washington and signed with Mizzou.

Sterk is also working to renovate Memorial Stadium. According to the Columbia Missourian, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told Sterk when he was hired that Mizzou’s facilities lagged behind their conference counterparts. Since then, Sterk has proposed a renovation of Memorial Stadium’s south end zone worth $96.7 million. The renovations would be completed in the summer of 2019.

Cuonzo Martin

Since his hiring on March 15, Cuonzo Martin has been tasked with rebuilding a Missouri basketball program that bottomed out under Kim Anderson, who went 27-68 and failed to win a true road game over his three seasons as head coach at Mizzou.

Martin is from East St. Louis and accepted the job at Mizzou in part to be closer to home. He joins Mizzou after head coaching stints at Missouri State, Tennessee and California.

Martin has improved every program he has coached and is renowned for recruiting, but has yet to push any of his teams over the hump. Martin went from 10th to first in the Missouri Valley Conference in just three seasons at Missouri State and guided Tennessee from the First Four to the Sweet 16 in 2014. At Cal, Martin brought in top-ranked recruiting classes but never achieved postseason success.

During his playing days, Martin played for Gene Keady at Purdue and was first-team All-Big Ten his senior season. Keady has called Martin the best leader he ever coached. Martin had a brief professional career in the NBA and Italy, but he was forced to retire after being diagnosed with cancer. After receiving treatment, Martin returned to Purdue and became an assistant under Keady.

Although Martin has now left three different schools in a six-year period, he has stated his desire to remain at Mizzou for the long haul. He has already made an impact on the recruiting trail, signing ESPN’s No. 1 recruit Michael Porter Jr. and top-100 recruit Blake Harris and is still garnering interest from other top recruits. In November, Tigers fans will finally find out if Martin’s off-court buzz translates into wins on the court.

Michael Porter Jr.

When Michael Porter Jr. announced in March on Twitter that he was “coming home” and committing to the Missouri men’s basketball team for next fall, Mizzou erupted. The team that went 8-24 last year is revamped with a new coaching staff under head coach Cuonzo Martin and the nation’s top recruit.

Porter grew up in Columbia and will return for at least one season to play for Mizzou under his father, Michael Porter Sr., who was hired by the team this year as an assistant coach.

“The great thing about [former head coach Kim Anderson] is he’s had a great foundation,” Martin said in an interview with KTVI on April 3 when asked how quick of a turnaround the team could make to being competitive again. “Obviously, he didn’t get a lot of wins that you wanted, but I think the foundation is great. Everything is intact there. So I think for us … it can be a quick turnaround when you get the right guys on the basketball court.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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