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5 takes from Cuonzo Martin's new-look roster since returning to Missouri State basketball

Missouri State men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin has built a roster from almost scratch with only two players from the 2023-24 season returning since he took over the program in late March.

Martin appears to have 13 scholarship players signed or committed for the 2024-25 season. There could be some movement before the fall semester begins around mid-August.

Here are some early thoughts on the new-look Bears with the roster coming together.

Missouri State men's basketball: A look at Missouri State's 2024-25 roster under head coach Cuonzo Martin

Missouri State basketball's roster doesn't have an obvious 'star' you'd point to right now

In recent years, you'd be able to point to Missouri State's roster and know someone like Alston Mason, Isiaih Mosley, Gaige Prim or as far back as Alize Johnson would be the one to carry the team. Martin even had Kyle Weems his first go-around.

There isn't a player of that caliber that you'd point at right now. Someone will emerge from somewhere in the first month of the season and we'll start to hear more closer to tipoff.

Stetson's Jalen Blackmon (5) drives past Austin Peay's Dez White (2) during the ASUN championship game at the Edmunds Center in DeLand, Sunday, March 10, 2024.
Stetson's Jalen Blackmon (5) drives past Austin Peay's Dez White (2) during the ASUN championship game at the Edmunds Center in DeLand, Sunday, March 10, 2024.

The names to point to are Austin Peay transfer Desmond White and South Plains (Texas) College transfer Jalen Hampton who have both played at the Division I level and have had success. White is a solid 3-point shooter while Hampton has shown to be a solid player inside. Then you're waiting to see if others develop like freshmen Jurrell Baldwin and Makhai Valentine or Murray State transfer Sam Murray II.

More: How Cuonzo Martin sold Vincent Brady II on Missouri State basketball's championship future

It's not as talented as last year's team on paper, but it can be far more successful

Last season's team was so disappointing because you'd look at names like Mason, Donovan Clay, Chance Moore, Cesare Edwards and N.J. Benson and then see how poor the results were. Some of it was on them, some was on the dismissed coaching staff.

As the roster is constructed now, Missouri State has a lot of tough players who fit the Martin mold and will fight inside and play hard-nosed defense. It's not built to go out and play to outscore an opponent. It looks like one that will create some ugly-looking scores but can come out on the winning end.

Knowing Martin's history, there's still a sense of confidence that the Bears will be better this way, even with a roster of unknowns and doesn't look as talented as they had before.

More: Missouri State to Conference USA: Bears will continue to have top-tier basketball venue

Cuonzo Martin was introduced as the head coach of the Missouri State mens Basketball team during a press conference on Monday, April 1, 2024.
Cuonzo Martin was introduced as the head coach of the Missouri State mens Basketball team during a press conference on Monday, April 1, 2024.

There is plenty of upside in a few of Missouri State's prospects

There are a few prospects that have high ceilings and could end up solid players. Murray II is extremely athletic and never quite saw his potential at Murray State. Baldwin appears to be the freshman standout to keep an eye on out of the Chicago area. Valentine could have opportunities to see the court if he continues to be a solid outside shooter.

White is still a young player coming off a season where he set a freshman 3-point shooting record at Austin Peay and Hampton showed he can be a good Division I player. Both have room to grow and they appear two of the most likely players to get an immediate chance.

Vincent Brady II, a transfer from IUPUI, is a good athlete at 6-foot-4 and has proven to be a solid shooter in the past. He's coming off a season where he shot 21.5% from deep when he was a 34.7% 3-point shooter as a freshman.

More: How Cuonzo Martin's Missouri State basketball staff salaries compare to Dana Ford's staff

Jalen Hampton, a juco transfer from South Plains College, walks through Missouri State's Plaster Student Union during his visit to the university on May 3, 2024.
Jalen Hampton, a juco transfer from South Plains College, walks through Missouri State's Plaster Student Union during his visit to the university on May 3, 2024.

Here is a way-too-early starting lineup prediction

This is bound to change over the coming months. The Downing-Rivers, White, and Hampton-trio are the ones we feel the most confident about.

IUPUI Jaguars guard Vincent Brady II (1) takes a shot around Iowa State University Cyclones guard Jaren Holmes (13) during the first half in the season opening home game at Hilton Coliseum Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Ames, Iowa.  Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune
IUPUI Jaguars guard Vincent Brady II (1) takes a shot around Iowa State University Cyclones guard Jaren Holmes (13) during the first half in the season opening home game at Hilton Coliseum Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune

How does Missouri State's roster compare to everyone else's in its last year in the Missouri Valley Conference?

There has been a ton of turnover in the Valley with 89 of its 194 players entering the transfer portal after the season while 23 of the 194 graduated. That's 57.8% of the league switching schools or running out of eligibility. That also includes 75% of the league's starters from last season. Five of the 12 schools will also have new head coaches.

Bradley has earned much of the preseason buzz because it's the one school that will have continuity when it's already been successful in recent years. Valparaiso, Northern Iowa and Murray State are the three other schools that return three starters.

The rest of the league has been rebuilding their rosters. Indiana State has had much to fill following Josh Schertz's departure for Saint Louis while taking a few of his players. New Drake head coach Ben McCollum has brought in a handful of players from Northwest Missouri State or some he either tried recruiting there in the past or had committed. New Southern Illinois head coach Scott Nagy kept Kennard Davis and also grabbed Damien Mayo Jr. and Tyler Bey from MSU. Illinois State retained standout freshman Johnny Kinziger.

Where will Missouri State be picked in the preseason poll? Who cares. But it will probably be middle of the pack or slightly lower. It will be as big of a crapshoot as it's ever been and hardly worth paying attention to come September-October.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri State men's basketball roster under Cuonzo Martin takeaways