As often seems to happen whenever the star-crossed Missouri basketball program seems poised to make an impact at the national level, the Tigers have encountered some unexpected turbulence.
Tony Mitchell, the centerpiece of Missouri's highly touted 2010 recruiting class, will not graduate with his peers this weekend as a result of a school district investigation, a Dallas TV station reported Tuesday.
WFAA-TV says the investigation focuses on the legitimacy of make-up course work the 6-foot-8 forward did after transferring from Center of Life Academy in Miami to Pinkston High in Dallas for his senior year. Fourteen of Mitchell's credits were not transferable because Center of Life's accreditation was not recognized by the Dallas district, but the Pinkston principal allowed him to take nine course make-up exams in a mere two days including five in a two-hour period.
For those curious why the Dallas school district wouldn't recognize Center of Life's accreditation from a home school association, perhaps it has something to do with the spelling errors WFAA unearthed from a web site that apparently represents the school. A valid URL for the school could not be found, but WFAA claims it found the following phrase on the site:
OUR ATHLETIC PROGRAM FEATURE ONE OF THE BASKETBALL PROGRAM IN THE NATION. OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS OUR TEAMS HAVE COMPETE AT THE HIGH LEVEL...
None of that sounds especially promising for Missouri, which could be losing a player Rivals.com ranked as the nation's No. 12 recruit in his class. Coach Mike Anderson likely knew he was taking a risk signing an elite recruit other top programs had shied away from out of concern over his academics, but recent reports had made it seem like Mitchell would be eligible next year.
If Mitchell doesn't don a Missouri uniform next season, it would certainly be a blow to the Tigers but not necessarily a crippling one. Missouri returns four of its five leading scorers including star Kim English and adds the remainder of a six-player recruiting class ranked sixth-best in the nation, plenty enough talent to contend for a top-three finish in the Big 12 and make another NCAA tournament run.
Plus, as Kentucky fans might point out, the timing of this is fortunate for Missouri in some ways. Better to find out Mitchell might be academically ineligible before he arrives on campus then to risk vacating a whole season if it came out afterward.