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Trio of Tigers returning after testing draft stock

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri center Jeremiah Tilmon (23) looks to pass the ball while Southern Illinois' Barret Benson (40) guards him during a game in December at Mizzou Arena.

Missouri men’s basketball standouts Xavier Pinson, Jeremiah Tilmon and Mitchell Smith have all withdrawn from the NBA Draft process and will return to Columbia for this upcoming season, the school confirmed Friday.

Tilmon and Smith are seniors, while Pinson is a junior. They are all expected to play a large role with an experienced MU team in 2020-21.

All three had until Aug. 3 to make their decisions on whether to return to school.

"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,” Tigers head coach Cuonzo Martin wrote in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have a deep, experienced squad back for what will be a very exciting season ahead.”

Missouri’s 14-man roster boasts 11 athletes who are juniors or older, the most in the Southeastern Conference and the third-most among all Power Five Conference programs. With just one true freshman (Jordan Wilmore), MU appears to have one of the most experienced rosters in all of Division I college basketball in 2020-21.

Pinson played in all 31 games as a sophomore with 11 starts, averaging 11.1 points per game while shooting 40% from the field.

The Chicago native proved to be the Tigers’ most dynamic player down the stretch of the season, scoring 18.9 points per game over the final nine contests, including four 20-point games.

Pinson scored in double digits 14 times, with nine of those coming in SEC play.

Smith enters his fifth season at MU as a redshirt senior coming off his most productive campaign in Columbia.

The 6-foot-10 forward set career-high season totals with 153 points, 146 rebounds and 20 assists last winter.

He stretched the floor with 20 3-pointers and shot 85.4% from the free-throw line.

“Honestly, going through this whole process has been great for me. I’m just here telling you guys I’m going to be back next year,” Smith said in a video on social media. “... Next year, we got some stuff we need to get done.”

Tilmon has 81 career games under his belt as he enters his final season at MU. The gifted 6-foot-10 center has averaged 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds over his career, shooting 56% from the field, which is tied for fourth all-time in program history.

Tilmon has 79 career blocked shots after swatting 21 shots as a junior. Last season, he was hampered by a foot injury but averaged 8.2 points per game while shooting 58.9% from the field in 17 games.

"Coming back for my senior year, I want to finish school, finish strong, get my degree," Tilmon said in an online video. "We've got a good group of guys that's coming in. We've got unfinished business."

Smith, Pinson and Tilmon will join the likes of Mark Smith, Dru Smith, Kobe Brown and Javon Pickett on the list of players expected to log significant minutes this season.

Martin also added transfers Drew Buggs and Ed Chang this offseason.

eblum@columbiatribune.com

Missouri guard Xavier Pinson (1) dribbles the ball during a game against Florida in January at Mizzou Arena.