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MU notebook: Martin joins minority leadership initiative

Eric Blum
The Examiner
Missouri head men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin talks with guard Torrence Watson (0) during a game against Tennessee on Jan. 7 at Mizzou Arena.

Missouri head men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin has joined an effort to provide more professional opportunities for minorities in college athletics.

The newly formed McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative is spearheaded by Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. Calipari announced the non-profit idea Monday morning on ESPN’s “Get Up.”

The initiative is “a coach-driven program to create access to and opportunity for meaningful employment experiences for minority candidates,” its website states.

Martin is one of more than 30 coaches named an ambassador in the group. Others include Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Tennessee’s Rick Barnes and Maryland’s Mark Turgeon.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in America and with sports paused, Calipari started a weekly web show called “Coffee with Cal.”

The show started as a lighthearted way for Kentucky fans and others to pass the time in quarantine. After the murder of George Floyd while in police custody on Memorial Day, Calipari paused his show for a week.

He returned in early-June to start talking about more serious topics. Those conversations led to the idea for the MLI and help from head coaches around the country.

Martin, the guest on Calipari’s final episode of the series Monday night, has been outspoken since widespread racial injustice protests began earlier this year about equality for all races in the United States.

“This is hard for me to say, it’s the truth because I want to be honest. I remember being back in California when Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and you saw and understood it had nothing to do with a flag, but you understood why he was kneeling. At least I understood it. ... This time around, this has allowed the whole world to see,” Martin told the Tribune last month.

“(The killing of Floyd) was a tough, tough thing to watch. And I’m not sure if you can watch that and say anything else but murder. And that was hard. I just think you have to take a stand and there’s more to it than talking about this right now. There’s action and no more behind-the-scenes action. We have to be a part of this as a country. We’re all a part of this.”

Missouri football adds two defensive linemen

Over the past three days, Missouri football has gained commitments from two defensive linemen.

Daniel Robledo, a defensive end from East Los Angeles Community College, committed to the Tigers on Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, Jonathan Jones, a three-star defensive end from McKinney, Texas, also pledged to join Missouri’s 2021 class. Jones chose MU over offers from Texas, Baylor and Nebraska.

Robledo is ranked as the No. 7 junior college prospect in the 2021 class and the No. 1 weak-side defensive lineman.

Missouri Class of 2020 signee Ben Key was junior college teammates with Robledo with the Huskies.

The additions of Jones and Robledo give Missouri 18 commits in its 2021 class, five of them being defensive linemen (Travion Ford, Shemar Pearl and Mekhi Wingo round out the group).

According to the 247Sports composite, Missouri’s 2021 recruiting class ranks 23rd in the country and seventh in the Southeastern Conference, up from 51st nationally and 13th in the SEC last season.

Ford, a four-star defensive end, is still Missouri’s only prospect to be rated above three stars by the composite.

Bolton named to Bednarik Watch List

Missouri junior linebacker Nick Bolton was named to the 2020 Chuck Bednarik Watch List, an award given annually to the best defensive player in college football.

Bolton is one of 100 players on the list, which also includes Penn State’s Micah Parsons and LSU’s Derek Stingley.

The Maxwell Football Club, who presents the Bednarik Award, will release all of its award watch lists this week.