Mizzou checking out NJ PG

The Missouri men's basketball staff stepped outside of its familiar recruiting turf a year ago when it plucked guard Keon Lawrence out of Newark, N.J., and it appears the Tigers are considering harvesting the Garden State again.

Missouri has been in steady contact with Plainfield's Anthony Nelson, Nelson and Plainfield coach Pete Vasil confirmed Monday. Nelson, a sturdily built 6-foot-2 lead guard, received a visit from MU assistant Melvin Watkins last month and has since maintained contact with Watkins.

"They've seen him play. They're supposed to come back this month," Vasil said.

Nelson has flown under the radar because of previous academic issues, but appears to be shoring his grades and expects to be eligible to play college basketball next season. Purdue, Rhode Island and Central Florida are among the other schools recruiting Nelson, who is averaging roughly 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game. Seton Hall and Rutgers have expressed some interest as well.

Though he has not received an MU offer, Nelson – who is a good friend of Lawrence's -- is quite interested.

"Oh yeah, definitely," he said. "I talked to [Lawrence] and he said he liked it a lot … I know him pretty well, so he could help me feel at home."

Nelson has always been ultra-quick, a good distributor and solid defender, but he's been fine-tuning his mid-range and outside jumpshot, and is beginning to put it all together. He's long-armed and quick to the hoop, but still is not regarded an outside marksman. He averaged 18.7 points per game in leading his team to a 23-5 mark last year.

"He's like another coach out there on the floor, just a great all-around player. He's a true point guard who's got shifty moves," said Vasil, who added that one coach told him recently that Nelson ‘has more moves than U-Haul.'

"I think he's going to go to another level," Vasil said.

The most important move, though, has been his upward trend in the classroom. Lack of focus on his grades, along with a freshman-year transfer from nearby Metutchen High, never allowed him to play a whole high-school season until this year.

"He's been able to overcome that," Vasil said. "He's going to qualify if he keeps doing what he's doing."

The motivation for Nelson's refocus on the books came from a simple observation.

"I see people around here with just as much talent as me, and they're on the streets now," said Nelson said. He'd prefer, instead, to follow in the footsteps of local stars Earl Clark (Louisville) and Jason Williams, the former national player of the year at Duke.

"I figure if they can do it, so can I," he said.

InsideMizzou will keep you posted on Nelson's recruitment…

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