The Maneater

In frantic Friday, Missouri basketball picks up point guard, misses out on another

Evansville transfer Dru Smith pledged to Missouri on Friday morning, but major target Courtney Ramey later announced his commitment to Texas.

Four-star point guard Courtney Ramey warms up before a high school game in St. Louis his junior year. Ramey committed to Texas over Missouri and three other finalists.

Even as Cuonzo Martin and his Missouri men’s basketball team moved forward in their offseason recruiting exploits, they held out hope on one point guard. Friday evening, they lost out on the waiting game that was the Courtney Ramey sweepstakes — but landed their point guard anyway.

Evansville transfer Dru Smith committed to Missouri on Friday morning, as first reported by Corey Evans of Rivals.com. Ramey, previously the country’s top-ranked, undeclared point guard in the class of 2018, followed with a commitment to Texas over Missouri and three other finalists.

Smith will be required by NCAA transfer policy to sit out the 2018-19 season but will be eligible to play two years after that transfer period. He was offered by Missouri on April 4 and chose the Tigers over Xavier and Virginia Tech.

Smith, a 6-foot-3 point guard and Evansville native, averaged 13.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game last season at Evansville, a Missouri Valley Conference school. Those totals inflated with his role after he averaged 5.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists his freshman season.

He joins a recruiting class for Missouri that includes Mark Smith, Torrence Watson, Xavier Pinson, Javon Pickett and KJ Santos. It leaves the Tigers with one scholarship left to give ahead of the 2018-19 season, assuming freshman Jontay Porter stays in the NBA draft.

Martin said last week that “guards and wings” were his highest recruiting priority when he spoke with local media. He landed a good fit for that criteria, but lost out on another talented one eight hours later.

Ramey announced his choice to play college hoops for Texas coach Shaka Smart and the Longhorns in a video posted on his Instagram account and his father’s Twitter page.

Ramey, a 6-foot-3 St. Louis product, is a four-star recruit and consensus top-60 overall prospect in the high school class of 2018. He finished No. 56 in ESPN’s final 2018 rankings.

Ramey’s father, Terrell, told Louisville Sports Live on Wednesday that Ramey’s final four contenders were Louisville, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma State. That was narrowed down from a list of 10 final candidates released on Ramey’s Instagram on April 5 that also included Illinois, Oregon, Ohio State, Minnesota, South Carolina and Southern Methodist.

Ramey used two of his five allotted official visits this winter at Texas and Oklahoma State. He left the other three officials unused but made an unofficial visit to Missouri and was present at Mizzou Arena for the Tigers’ senior night win against Arkansas on March 3.

In what turned out to be the final full week of his recruitment, he received in-home visits from Texas and Missouri last Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

He had an in-home visit scheduled with Louisville for that Wednesday, but it was canceled due to Ramey’s departure for Philadelphia to play in last weekend’s Allen Iverson Invitational. Instead, Ramey made a final, unofficial visit to Louisville on Tuesday.

Ramey was committed to Louisville for seven months in 2017 before backing out during the FBI investigation.

Missouri was considered to have emerged as a frontrunner in the final weeks of Ramey’s recruitment when he cited an improved relationship with Martin. Martin attended three of Ramey’s final four high school games, including the championship game in what proved to be Ramey’s second-straight state title.

Smart was at Ramey’s state quarterfinal game in St. Louis on March 10. He was required by NCAA recruiting policies to decline comment when The Maneater asked about Ramey.

Ramey is also known to have a good relationship with class of 2018 signees Torrence Watson and Xavier Pinson. Pinson said in a phone interview on April 11 that he felt confident Ramey would choose Missouri.

“Me and Courtney have been really close friends since like the eighth grade or freshman year, because AAU,” Pinson said at the time. “I just feel like if he came, we could be a good backcourt together along with Torrence [Watson] and another few players. I feel like we have a strong chance of getting him because of his history and friendship with Torrence and me as well. I’m really excited about Courtney.”

Watson and recent Missouri commit Mark Smith have also played AAU ball with Ramey before. Watson said in a phone interview on April 19 that he hadn't talked with Ramey recently but was optimistic that Missouri could land the coveted recruit.

Texas and Missouri both reiterated offers to him last October after he decommitted from Louisville, following former coach Rick Pitino’s termination amidst an FBI probe for college basketball corruption. Ramey had been pledged to Louisville for seven months.

After the recruitment was reopened, Martin rarely involved himself with the in-state prospect until February, when he suddenly became a frequent presence at Ramey’s high school games, which culminated in a Missouri Class Five state championship. Ramey later said Martin explained that he thought Ramey’s mind was almost made up about another school, prompting the lack of connection in the early stages.

With Ramey off the table, Martin will avert holding out longer and be able to continue pursuing someone to fill the potential last scholarship. Missouri recently has drawn interest from 6-foot-7 combo forward Blake Hinson, who hails from Florida but played in Wichita, Kansas for Sunrise Christian Academy last season.

Hinson was originally a top-100 2019 recruit, but he reclassified to play college ball a year early. He visited Missouri this week and is considering the Tigers along with Ole Miss, Seton Hall and Washington State.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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