COLUMBIA — In a move that was largely expected even before the coronavirus pandemic threw the professional and NCAA sporting worlds into chaos, Missouri men's basketball players Xavier Pinson, Jeremiah Tilmon Jr. and Mitchell Smith will withdraw from the NBA Draft process and return next season.
The program confirmed their decisions in a statement Friday afternoon, and shortly after, Tilmon and Smith posted videos on their social media pages to address Tiger fans about the move.
"Coming back for my senior year, I want to finish school, finish strong, get my degree," Tilmon said. "We got a good group of guys coming in, and we've got unfinished business. M-I-Z."
In the tweet accompanying the video, Tilmon said, "Basketball is my way out and I got people counting on me. My job is to remain humble and never fold. This road is not the easiest but being from EAST ST. LOUIS it's in our blood to go hard! I want the world to know it's more than just basketball, if I can do it you can do it."
Smith said, "I just wanted to come and let you guys know, I know times have been crazy right now, and everybody's kinda doing their own thing, trying to get back to normal. But honestly going through this whole process has been great for me. I'm just here telling you guys I'm gonna be back next year. This time has been great for me and my family, the encouragement you guys have been giving me, my teammates and my coaches, but next year we've got some stuff we need to get done. I gotta finish my degree. M-I-Z."
Tilmon said he would return earlier in July, and Pinson hinted at the decision in a video posted to Instagram on Monday, but neither had filed the necessary paperwork to make the move official. All three have since done so, Missouri confirmed in the release.
"I am thankful that despite the process being limited due to the pandemic, all three guys were able to receive key information that can help them in their respective futures," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said in the release. "We're thrilled to have a deep, experienced squad back for what will be a very exciting season ahead."
Tilmon was limited by a foot injury at the start of Southeastern Conference play last season, and the injury bug has been unkind to the Tigers' central players in the Martin era, but the team will have experience next season. Missouri will have just one freshman, 7-foot-2 center/forward Jordan Wilmore, and 11-of-14 players will be upperclassmen.
The NCAA has not yet made any decisions on winter sports seasons, and Friday afternoon opted to wait until August to make a decision on its 22 championship events, which begin in November.
Kirkwood High School plans to hire former Missouri standout Jimmy McKinney to lead its boys basketball program, according to a release from the school Friday afternoon.
McKinney will be recommended for the position in a Board of Education meeting at the end of August.
McKinney, who won three straight Class 4 state titles at Vashon in the late 1990s and early 2000s, scored 1,146 points from 2002-06 at Missouri, averaging 12.6 points per game as a senior. After a 10-year career playing professional basketball in Germany, McKinney returned to Vashon as an assistant coach.