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Challenging path leads basketball recruit from Queens to Mizzou

By Dave Matter
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

COLUMBIA, Mo. – "It's been a very long road for me. I went through some things that a kid shouldn't really go through at such a young age."

Those are the opening words to the video Sean Durugordon posted Wednesday on Instagram, a 60-second clip that ended with the 6-foot-6 guard wearing a Mizzou T-shirt.

Later, Durugordon shared more about a tragic childhood that helped shape a young man who's now the latest piece to Mizzou's 2021 recruiting class. Durugordon was born in Harlem, New York, but has spent most of his life in the Queens borough. At 9 years old he lost his mother to cancer. At 15, he lost his father to a fatal heart attack. From there, his four older siblings helped raise him. He credits older brother Shariff for guiding him on a path toward a college scholarship.

"I had to really grow up quick," Durugordon said in a phone interview. "I'm really disciplined and mature for my age. I just used basketball as pretty much my outlet. I've always been a good student. And I have a lot of people in my corner that have always supported me and kept me on the right path."

Durugordon hopes that next person is Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin. He'll attend a new prep school in Connecticut this year, but before then became a rising high-major prospect this summer. He chose Mizzou over Arizona State, DePaul and Georgia after developing a relationship with Martin over the phone the last several months. The NCAA dead period has shut down recruiting visits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, meaning Durugordon committed to Mizzou sight unseen. He's never been to the state of Missouri. But conversations with Martin sold him on the program.

"I haven't been able to take any visits, so I really value relationships more," he said. "I felt like the relationship that I built with Coach Martin and the staff was the strongest one. Me and Coach Martin talk a lot on the phone, have a lot of deep conversations. A trust was developed from that, and I just felt that they would be the ones that I trust my future with."

Those conversations covered a broad range of topics, not always related to basketball, Durugordon said.

"We talked a lot about racial injustices, me developing into a man," Durugordon said. "We talked about accountability, integrity, being a man of your word, being unselfish. We talked about a lot of lessons that I'm always going to need."

Durugordon became the second player to commit to Mizzou this week, following Kaleb Brown, a guard from Huntsville, Ala., who committed on Monday. They join Springfield, Mo., guard Anton Brookshire in Mizzou's pivotal 2021 class. The Tigers have five seniors on the 2020-21 roster, plus another open scholarship to use for next year's class.

Durugordon recently transferred prep schools in Connecticut, moving from Canterbury School to Putnam Science Academy. As a junior last season, he averaged 23 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. He's rated the nation's No. 237 player overall by 247Sports.com's composite rankings and the No. 48 small forward. ESPN rates Durugordon a four-star prospect, while 247Sports and Rivals.com have him as a three-star. He's got ideal size for the perimeter 6-6 plus a 7-foot wingspan.

"I'm a really versatile guard," he said. "I can play the two or the three or even some at the four (power forward). I'm a guy that's a really good defender. Going to Mizzou I feel like will make me more of an elite defender. That's something I really prioritize and I feel like I'm going to bring that to the table from day one.

"I really crash the boards a lot, get tip-ins and give my team second-chance points. I'm really just a guy who does a lot on the floor. If I'm having a bad scoring game I'm always going to be useful because of my defense."

Durugordon is moving into Putnam Science Academy this weekend and will have to quarantine for two weeks before the team starts practicing Sept. 14. In the spring, he told his coaches at Canterbury he wanted to play against better competition as a senior and they helped arrange a transfer to Putnam.

"They reached out to us and said, 'Hey, this kid's looking,'" Putnam coach Tom Espinosa said. "That's how we kind of got started. Then we got film and we made some calls, character checks and all that. But I've never really seen him play live, never worked him out. Nothing like that. So it's going to be interesting."

"He's athletic, tough," Espinosa added. "We're really excited for the kid. He's got to be a more consistent shooter and continue to get stronger. This year is going to be great for him. He's going to be playing at the highest level. We have 13 Division I players on the team. It's going to be great for him every day. He's going to get better just competing with his teammates. We've got him plugged into the two/three positions. He's a tremendous rebounding guard. He fits our mold of just being tough and a team guy. He's a high-character kid, just a tremendous young man."