Cuonzo Martin may have spent the last three years coaching on the West Coast, but he wasn’t a complete stranger to a few members of Missouri’s basketball team.
The Tigers met their new coach for the first time on Monday and for players like Terrence Phillips and Jordan Barnett, seeing Martin was like greeting an old friend.
Martin recruited both Barnett and Phillips at his last two stops and both players had nothing but positive things to say about their new coach.
“I was really happy when I heard about it,” Barnett said, “He recruited me at Tennessee. He’s from East. St. Louis. In town game. Him and my dad have been good friends for a really long time.”
Barnett never visited Tennessee when Martin was there and he said down the line they weren’t really a factor in his recruitment when he decided to sign with Texas out of high school.
But his father was impressed with the way Martin recruited his son and made sure to tell his son that throughout his high school career.
“My dad would talk to me a lot about him,” he said. “He was such a good player. How he transformed his shooting after his sophomore year (at Purdue).”
Phillips was recruited by Martin when he was at California and said that he thought Martin and his staff were “unbelievable” when he dealt with them during the recruiting process.
The Tigers point guard said he thinks him and Martin will gel quickly since Martin’s coaching reflects the kind of player he tries to be.
“He brings a lot of energy as far as coaching and I’m an energy kind of guy,” Phillips said.
Kevin Puryear was the lone player that spoke to the media that wasn’t recruited by Martin in high school but knew a lot about him due to his success at his previous schools.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Puryear said. “He led Tennessee to the Sweet 16. Led California to a great season. Produced a couple NBA players. Of course he’s going to get us to that level.”
Martin met with the team an hour before his introductory press conference but declined to elaborate on what was discussed in the meeting.
Barnett said some of Martin’s coaching philosophies were explained as well was what the team can expect in the near future.
Offense won’t be the early priority.
“He really values defense,” he said. “Offense will come. He wants us to focus on defense.”
Puryear added that Martin’s passion for the area and his commitment to the school were evident throughout the talk.
“He talked about hard work and putting Mizzou back on the map and how invested he was and how excited he was to be here,” Puryear said. “I think this is going to be an exciting time for Mizzou basketball.”