Eyes on the Tigers: Missouri athletic programs get a look at their future stars on National Signing Day

Eyes on the Tigers: Missouri athletic programs get a look at their future stars on National Signing Day

Wednesday was the first day that high school athletes from the class of 2021 could sign with their college of choice, and many Missouri commits wasted no time putting the pen to the paper.

29 athletes signed their National Letter of Intent across six programs on the first signing day, which ensures they will all be under scholarship in Columbia for at least one year.

More signees are expected across all sports programs with the exception of football over the coming days. Men’s and women’s basketball recruits must sign by Nov. 18 or wait until April 2021 to sign their paperwork, but those who play other sports can sign any time between Nov. 11 and Aug. 1, 2021.

The signings listed below all formally committed on Wednesday. There will be a separate list of new Missouri signees who submit paperwork over the next few days.

Men’s Basketball

Coach Cuonzo Martin’s program signed five players on Wednesday, all of whom verbally committed in the past few months. Trevon Brazile, Anton Brookshire, Kaleb Brown, Sean Durugordon and Yaya Keita submitted their paperwork to the university to confirm their spots on the 2021-22 roster.

Brown hails from Huntsville, Alabama, and is the brother of current Missouri basketball sophomore Kobe Brown. The younger Brown finished 2019 with six triple-doubles as a testament to his all-around success.

“He looks to pass, or he wants to make it,” Kobe Brown said. “He wants to get assists, that's his biggest thing. He’d rather have 100 assists before you have 100 points, so that's why I would say he is a pass-first player.”

Brazile is a Springfield, Missouri wing who thrived at both ends of the court during his junior season at Parkview High with an athletic finishing package that is equal parts graceful and ferocious and a dominant shot-blocking presence in the paint. The backdoor is always open for the six-foot-seven Brazile to rise up and throw down a powerful lob.

Brookshire is the highest-rated recruit out of the bunch, coming in as 247Sports’ No. 152 prospect. His highlights accent his balanced offensive approach. Brookshire can catch and shoot with ease, plow through his opposition on fast breaks and find the open man beyond the three-point arc.

Brazile and Brookshire will team up this winter at Kickapoo High, and they hope to build chemistry on the court in Springfield before transitioning to Columbia.

Durugordon signed Wednesday, even though Dave Matter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he was going to sign Saturday. A prospect from Queens, New York, coaches and scouts say he has the potential to be drafted to the NBA once his collegiate career wraps up.

Durugordon stands at six-foot-six but has a seven-foot wingspan that allows him to stuff opponents trying to finish at the rim and pluck offensive rebounds over big men.

247Sports’ No. 201 player in the 2021 class will skip his senior season to join the Tigers in January, where he will redshirt and practice with the team.

Keita is an undersized center who has impressive ball-handling skills despite standing at six-foot-nine. The DeSmet Jesuit product has some solid moves in the post, but the first-team all-district big man operates more in face-up or open floor settings.

Keita is listed at 210 pounds but has a sturdy frame that should fill out even more with access to team resources at Missouri.

The top 2021 frontcourt player in Missouri revealed he tore his right ACL in an interview with Charlie Marlow with KTVI FOX 2 News in St. Louis and he will miss his senior season. Marlow said that Keita will be ready to play in time for his first season at Missouri.

There is more time for Martin and Co. to add more talent to the 2021-22 roster. Hercy Miller, a guard from Minneapolis, has the Tigers in his shortlist, and guard Madison Peaster from Little Rock, Arkansas also holds an offer from Missouri.

Women’s basketball

Four players signed to the Missouri women’s basketball team Wednesday in hopes of reviving the success coach Robin Pingeton produced in the Sophie Cunningham era. Kiya Dorroh, Izzy Higginbottom, Sarah Linthacum and Da’Necia Trusty will join a nucleus of rising underclasswomen next fall.

“Our 2021 class is a group of ladies we are extremely proud about and fully expect will make an instant impact on our program,” Pingeton said via team social media. “Kiya, Izzy, Da’Necia and Sarah all have very dynamic skill sets, which will make them incredibly versatile in our system.”

Dorroh, the No. 47 prospect in the nation, is the only signee in the 2021 class ranked in the espnW 100. The six-foot wing from Tucson, Arizona can play in either the backcourt or frontcourt and has no problems with shot creation. Dorroh’s elevation and length allow her to make contested shots from inside the arc and snatch rebounds.

Higginbottom is the No. 20 2021 point guard according to ESPN and has garnered two all-state recognitions from the Arkansas Activities Association. ESPN evaluations of the Batesville, Arkansas native say she is a “game manager”, and her tape calls attention to her tremendous dribbling skills and fearless attitude driving through the lane.

Linthacum comes to the program from just down Highway 63 in Jefferson City, where she comes from a family filled with Missouri alumni. Her great-grandfather, grandfather and father all played football for Missouri, and her older sister, Micah Linthacum, is a redshirt freshman on the team.

Sarah Linthacum earned Missouri State High School Athletic Association Class 5 all-state honors during her time at Jefferson City High School.

Trusty is one of the most impressive shot-blocking bigs in the nation. The six-foot-three standout from Houston led the nation with a whopping 8.3 blocks per game during her junior year at Alief Hastings High School to complement a polished post game. Trusty makes herself at home in the low post, sinking shots face up or with her back to the basket.

This unit will complement budding sophomore stars Hayley Frank and Aijha Blackwell next fall.

Volleyball

Volleyball has a lot of ground to make up with their 2021 recruiting class, with only one freshman playing this season and key seniors Tyanna Omazic, Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana and Kylie Deberg graduating after this season.

Coach Joshua Taylor filled in the gaps on the offensive and defensive fronts with three signings on the first day.

Kaylee Cox from Flower Mound, Texas, Jordan Iliff from St. Louis and Trista Strasser from Kyle, Texas were the first three players to sign. Iliff and Cox are the No. 37 and No. 45 recruits in the 2021 class according to Prep Volleyball, respectively. Strasser was named a 2020 Under Armour All-American Honorable Mention for her efforts this fall.

The team’s Twitter page announced commits would be signing Wednesday through Friday.

Track/cross country

The track/cross country team added five new members to their team on National Signing Day. Lydia Roller out of Staunton, Illinois, Allison Newman from Collierville, Tennessee, Emelia Arnone from Plymouth, Minnesota and Abbey Wilson from Montgomery, Texas specialize in middle and long-distance running, while Taylor Ciccolini from Lewiston, Pennsylvania will compete in javelin events.

Newman won the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Division 2-A individual state cross-country title with a five-kilometer (3.1 mile) time of 18:52.79 while Roller finished as runner-up in the 2019 Illinois state cross country meet.

Wilson finished top 15 in the Texas state cross country meet, and Ciccolini finished third at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state meet as a sophomore.

Wrestling

Missouri wrestling, which has won eight consecutive Mid-American Conference (MAC) titles, added two in-state signees in the form of Nate Pulliam from Rolla and Korbin Shepherd out of Blue Springs.

Both wrestlers have dominated their respective weight classes since putting on a singlet. Shepherd operated in the 126-pound division during his sophomore and junior seasons, finishing as Missouri state champion in 2019 and runner-up in 2020.

According to team social media, it appears that Shepherd is making the jump to the 133-pound division for his senior year and will most likely compete in that division in college.

“You can't go wrong there with good partners,” Shepherd said. “It's close to home, so I get to stay at home and just represent Missouri. I knew where I wanted to be the whole time and I made it happen."

Pulliam had enough success against Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) competition in his freshman and sophomore years that he earned national attention with All-American honors at US Marine Corps/USA Wrestling Junior Nationals in 2019. He won back-to-back state titles at the 149-pound division in 2019 and 2020 and only has one loss to his high school record.

"I chose to sign with Mizzou from a wrestling standpoint because there are terrific partners, there are several ranked guys in the country at Mizzou,” Pulliam said. “I know a lot of them, being a Missouri guy, so that helps knowing them as friends and wrestlers, as well.”

Coach Brian Smith expects Shepherd and Pulliam to make an instant impact in the classroom and on the mat. Both wrestlers are three-time academic all-state honorees and plan to enter the medical field once they finish their collegiate careers.

Gymnastics

College Gym News ranked Missouri’s 2021 gymnastics recruiting class the fourth-best in the nation.

The five signees will work to push coach Shannon Welker’s program to a higher rank in the SEC. In the 2019 SEC Gymnastics Championship, Missouri finished last in the eight-team field.

The most heralded signee of the bunch is Amari Celestine from Wildomar, California, who is a five-star recruit according to College Gym News. Celestine is the 2019 Junior Olympic national champion on vault and tied for third on beam at the same event. She is a four-time California state champion and brings a well-rounded skill set to Columbia.

The class around Celestine is highly-touted in their own right. Three of the other four gymnasts also qualified for the national Junior Olympics throughout their high school career.

2018 national qualifier Grace Anne Davis from Albertville, Alabama, took home the 2018 Alabama floor state title and finished as Alabama’s all-around runner-up at the same event.

Victoria Gatzendorfer is a two-time national qualifier for Junior Olympics out of Marvin, North Carolina, and recorded a top-five finish for her floor routine and all-around performance at 2018 regionals.

Jocelyn Moore from Hillsborough, New Jersey, is a 2019 national Junior Olympics qualifier who has had the most success on vault and beam. Moore secured state crowns in both events in 2019 and won the Region 7 championship on vault.

Alonna Kratzer is a junior international elite gymnast from Suwanee, Georgia. who Welker said excels on the bars. At the 2018 Top Notch Invitational, Kratzer earned the top score on vault, bars, beam and all-around.

She has experience from her competition in both Elite and Level 10, the latter of which is the highest level in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics program.

Swimming

Five swimmers, three women and two men, inked their NLI for Andrew Grevers’ unit.

Most of Wednesday’s signing contingent grew up outside the Show Me State. Three additions to the team to the roster, Brecken Merkel (butterfly/IM), Taylor Williams (freestyle) and Will Whittington (freestyle) come from Minnesota, while Cade Oliver (backstroke/IM) hails from Trafalgar, Indiana.

Mara Manion (backstroke) attends Rock Bridge High School and will stick in Columbia once she graduates. She was the only in-state signee Wednesday.

Baseball

On Twitter, Missouri baseball announced it had signed players Wednesday but did not give information about specific signees.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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