Missouri’s newest basketball commit, Sean Durugordon, enters with chip on shoulder

Sean Durugordon brands himself as a quiet guy on and off the court, but he plans on making noise under Cuonzo Martin’s tutelage.

Mike Yagmin, a recruiting analyst for The Hoop Hustle, knew exactly what word would best describe Missouri’s newest basketball commit, Sean Durugordon.

“He’s a fighter,” said Yagmin. “Sean doesn’t have to go too far to look for motivation. He’s got a lot of stuff to use for that between wanting to prove something for his family and to the local community. He’s got a chip on his shoulder whenever he steps on the court.”

Durugordon, the No. 203 ranked player in the nation according to 247Sports as of Sept. 6, has had to overcome more than most teenagers in the early years of his life. He lost his mother to cancer at just nine years old and his father died six years later as a result of complications with a heart attack.

Since then, his four older siblings have taken up the task of raising Durugordon and helping him navigate his way through multiple high major offers before he eventually decided to venture from Queens, NY, to play for Cuonzo Martin’s program.

The versatile 6-foot-7 wing has a wingspan that’s nearly half a foot longer than his height, an advantage for both a fighter and a basketball player. He hopes to use his lengthy reach, two-way prowess and the anvil on his shoulder to go the distance and use his time in Columbia to develop into an NBA-caliber player.

A Distant Connection

Durugordon hadn’t even stepped foot in Columbia, or even Missouri for that matter, before announcing his commitment on Aug. 26. Martin and the coaching staff made the Show Me State feel like home even though they were 1,100 miles away from Queens.

“I chose Mizzou because I felt like I had the best relationship with the staff there,” Durugordon said. “They were always really transparent from the beginning. Me and Coach Martin had a connection right from the jump. Coach Martin has played in the NBA and coached NBA guys, too, so he knows what it takes to get to that level and I feel that he’ll be able to bring my potential out of me.”

Yagmin said that Durugordon was excited to talk to Martin and the coaching staff because of how early they positioned themselves to land the three/four-star small forward.

“Missouri was one of the first high major schools that offered Sean a scholarship, so he was pumped to talk to them,” Yagmin said.

Durugordon, Martin and the coaching staff conversed with their third commit of the 2021 class about a wide array of topics. Some were basketball-related, while others were not.

"We talked a lot about racial injustices, me developing into a man," Durugordon said in an interview with Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We talked about accountability, integrity, being a man of your word, being unselfish. We talked about a lot of lessons that I'm always going to need."

The one factor that was most important to Durugordon was trusting the coaching staff. Martin and Co. have done enough to earn the trust and commitment of Sean Durugordon.

“I feel like you always gotta believe they’re gonna do right by you,” said Durugordon. “If there’s no trust, there’s really no anything. I feel like playing at a high level like that, and ultimately reaching the high goal of the NBA, I have to play under someone who I trust with my future.”

Studying For SEC

Moving to Columbia will more or less be a continuation of the life that Durugordon lived last year at Canterbury School and will live this year at Putnam Science Academy, both private boarding schools located in Connecticut.

Living in the dorms will be the same. A regimented daily routine will be the same. The only thing that will change for Durugordon is that he will no longer be competing for a national title at the high school level. He will be chasing Southeastern Conference glory and perhaps a national championship.

Durugordon’s first year at Putnam will be a stepping stone into the world of college basketball. PSA’s head coach Tom Espinosa said this year’s squad will feature 13 players that are bound for Division I basketball, and he believes Durugordon’s early commitment will allow him to focus on tweaking some areas of his game and climb even higher in the player rankings.

“I think there’s some pressure off him now and he can get the most out of this year,” said Espinosa. “Sean played at a lower-class prep school last year, so this is gonna be a huge stage for him.”

Espinosa said he expects Durugordon to fit into PSA smoothly, although it may take some time to adjust to playing at the highest level of prep basketball in the Northeast.

“It’ll be a smooth transition overall, but it will be a challenge,” said Espinosa. “It could be a bumpy road in the beginning because this is as close as you can get to playing college basketball.”

Even though COVID-19 forced Durugordon off the courts of Queens and cancelled his AAU season, Putnam’s off-season acquisition has prepared for his senior season through workouts with his AAU coach, Chris Diasparra, who has worked him at Crown Basketball in Long Island, N.Y., for the last five years, and his older brother, Shariff, who he consulted with often during the recruitment process.

Durugordon has already risen more than 30 spots in the 247Sports Rankings less than a week after his commitment to Missouri, and he was recently awarded a fourth star by ESPN. He has the opportunity to grow his stock even further by playing with and against some of the best talent the New England area has to offer.

Spreading His Wings

At the professional level, versatility is valued more than ever in basketball. High-caliber players, especially high-caliber wings, need to be able to shoot from all three levels, grab rebounds and play lockdown defense to be considered elite.

Though he has a way to go before he is ready to jump to the pros, there are early signs that show Durugordon has the tools to mold into a stalwart two-way wing. He’s a jack-of-all-trades player whose listed position is small forward, but could find himself slotted into the shooting guard or power forward role in a pinch.

“I think my role will be a guy that’s gonna do a lot on the floor,” Durugordon said. “I can rebound, defend the best player on the opposite team, push the break, score the basketball. I just want to be everywhere and really showcase my versatility, playing multiple spots on the floor and just playing hard.”

In his junior season at Canterbury, Durugordon’s stats were a glimpse of what he will be able to contribute during his time at PSA and at Missouri. He averaged a double-double with 23 points per game while hauling in 11.5 rebounds per contest.

Durugordon’s coaches have noticed his physical gifts, which are unteachable. While Durugordon currently clocks in at 215 pounds, his coaches predict that his frame will improve as time goes along.

Yagmin said the jump from high school facilities to a college-level facility in Missouri will prove to be beneficial to Durugordon bulking up.

“He hasn’t widened out yet, but we’re about to see his strength and athleticism grow just from being in the SEC weight room,” said Yagmin.

Durugordon also has the reach advantage over most counterparts at his position, allowing him to win rebounding battles and get his team second-chance points.

“Because of his great second jump, long arms and nose for the ball, he’s always been able to get the ball on the offensive glass and either get fouled or get putback opportunities,” said Brian Baudinet, Durugordon’s coach at Canterbury.

While playing around the rim and driving to the hoop has been an instrumental part of Durugordon’s game, he upgraded his perimeter shooting abilities at Canterbury, sinking 44% of his shots from behind the arc last year.

Baudinet said Durugordon had the fundamentals in place for three-point shooting prior to arriving at Canterbury last fall, but he just needed to touch up some aspects of his shot and shoot the ball more to bring his shooting percentage up.

“He didn’t shoot a whole lot of threes at his previous school and AAU, but he had solid mechanics, so we just tried to clean up his footwork and make it a little bit more consistent,” said Baudinet. “We had him shooting with more frequency with a lot of repetitions in practice, and it spilled over to the game where he shot more and made a higher percentage of shots than he did in previous years.”

There is ample room for improvement for Durugordon’s game in his final season of prep basketball and his years at Missouri. Baudinet said Durugordon will take it upon himself to reach the next level in hopes of making it to the professional level.

“Sean is capable of playing at a high level,” said Baudinet. “I think a lot of it is dependent on him. If he works hard on a daily basis and is focused and tries to improve on a couple areas that use work, he’s got a chance to have a great career ahead of himself. There’s plenty of ability there in place. It’s just tweaking a couple of things and that will make a huge difference for them.”

A Lowkey Key

Durugordon is not much of a talker — he will admit that himself — but that quietness does not take away from his character, which all of his recent coaches are ready to praise.

“He just doesn’t do anything wrong,” said Diasparra. “He’s always on time. He’s always working his butt off. He’s always doing the right thing. He’s always trying to get better. His off the court life consists of just focused on basketball and I give him a lot of credit for that. There’s a lot of stuff that can get kids caught nowadays and he doesn’t really get caught up in any of that.”

Diasparra also recognized Durugordon for being one of the easiest players he has ever worked with at Crown Basketball.

“We’ve been around for eight years and he’s as coachable a kid as we’ve ever had,” said Diasparra. “Great kid to coach, great kid to play with. In that regard, he was really beloved by his teammates.”

When he’s not plucking rebounds off the glass or pouring in three-pointers, Durugordon likes to watch basketball — Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers serves as one of his biggest sources of basketball inspiration — as well as play video games and draw. And once he gets comfortable around people, he said he is a bit of a comedian.

“If it’s my first time seeing you, I’m not much of a talker,” said Durugordon. “I’m pretty chill and I’m not gonna talk to you a lot, but over time, if you get to know me, I’m pretty funny.”

But, it’s mostly about basketball for Durugordon. He understands the importance of making it to the professional level, and in sticking to his word about loyalty, his biggest motivation to fight for loose balls, rebounds and playing time every time he steps onto the court is no surprise.

“I want my family to be comfortable and I want for us all to be happy,” said Durugordon. “You know, I have my family that I want to support. I’m just thinking about the future and just trying to make the people closest to me as comfortable as possible.”

In his quest to support his family in Queens, his new family — the Missouri Tigers basketball family — will help Durugordon see his dreams through to the finish line.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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