Despite the fact that he hails from rural Georgia, just over the South Carolina line, Jakeenan Gant didn't need much time to establish his high Division I pedigree. He impressed us at the Hampton EYBL event back during his freshman year in 2011, and he continued to build his portfolio from there.
Not surprisingly given his location, Georgia and Clemson emerged as his early leaders. He enjoyed a fine sophomore season and then stepped up further at the 2012 Peach Jam, proving to be one of the 2014 class' most impressive run/jump athletes.
A strong junior season brought his pursuit to a furious boil this past spring. After averaging 15 points and six rebounds per game for the Southern Stampede through two EYBL events in April, Syracuse, Florida State, N.C. State and others stepped forward with offers.
He bore the look of either an SEC or ACC recruit, but he insisted he was nowhere near ready to make a decision.
Gant then sprained his ankle prior to summer and never regained his spring form. Nevertheless — and this is why the April evaluation period is so valuable — coaches had watched him sufficiently to feel comfortable offering a scholarship. His recruiting interest didn't dwindle, yet even as of late June he didn't consistently list Missouri.
That had changed by the end of summer, however, as the Tigers entered the picture aggressively and enticed Gant into making an August visit. He took that trip and pledged during his time in Columbia, and while he'll end up in the SEC, Mizzou certainly surprised many by getting him out of his home region.
Gant simply is a terrific athlete. Even when surrounded by elite frontcourt prospects on the Nike circuit, he stands out in a crowd due to his is pogo stick leaping ability. He's a fantastic straight-up leaper who maximizes his bounce by working hard to pull down rebounds and block shots.
Few finish as emphatically above the rim, as Gant is a supreme dunker in traffic and will be dynamite on the break for Missouri. But he's more than just an athlete, as illustrated by his smooth foul line jump shot.
His ability to play in the high post effectively offsets brawnier big men who can prevent him from establishing on the low block. His quickness advantage thus negates their strength edge, and his frame should enable him to close the distance between himself and others at the next level.
Gant's speed also enables him to cover expansive territory on defense, and Frank Haith will enjoy having the option to utilize him as a trapper and recovery specialist who contests shots at the rim.
In order to become a full-time facing forward, Gant must improve his dribbling and shooting range. He's primarily a catch-and-shooter player at the moment, as he doesn't create for himself off the bounce nor step out to the three-point stripe effectively on a consistent basis. There's no arguing his production, when he's healthy, but at 6-8 he must work diligently to enhance his face-up skills.
Gant should soar immediately upon arriving in Columbia. Yes, he needs to gain strength and, yes, he must improve his dribbling — particularly with his left hand —but he's so athletic and such a great fit for Missouri, he'll shine in the Tigers' fullcourt game immediately.