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McKinney ready to start at Mizzou

Mario McKinney has spent most of his high school career working toward championships. The 6’1 combo guard from Vashon High School in St. Louis won three state basketball championships during his time at Vashon and spent this past weekend in Jefferson City competing in the Track and Field championships in both the long jump and the high jump. This Saturday, June 1st, McKinney starts a whole new journey, one that Missouri fans hope results in more championships.

It won’t be a normal summer for McKinney. He reports to campus in a little less than a week and will begin working out with the basketball team almost immediately. In addition, he will be enrolled in a pair of summer courses. The Vashon product was the first signee of the 2019 class for Cuonzo Martin and company. It was his relationship with the head coach that had the biggest factor in his commitment. When speaking with his father Mario McKinney Sr., he had this to say regarding his son’s relationship with the Martin.

“It was the deciding factor, couldn’t go somewhere where there wasn’t a relationship. That is just part of life, building those relationships and going somewhere where you can trust someone.”

As far as a role for next season, McKinney knows it will be an uphill climb but he is ready for the challenge.

“It is a big jump with their guard depth but Mario is a competitor and he knows what he is going to do,” his father said. “He’s got the heart of a lion and he has an opportunity to get out there and play no matter who else is there.”

McKinney is no stranger to hard work. Tony Irons, his head coach at Vashon, is notorious for how hard-working and intense his teams are on the floor. It is a defensive minded system that has led Vashon to three championships in four years, and often times, McKinney was the leader of that defensive intensity.

There have been questions as to whether McKinney is point guard or shooting guard. With Martin being quoted as saying Missouri is moving to “positionless basketball,” it won’t much matter which spot McKinney plays. His father knows that Missouri’s system will fit his son’s strengths.

“He can play the one or the two, with or without the ball. They (Missouri) play three guards so there will be plenty of opportunities.”

One thing is for sure, his athleticism jumps off the page. There are few, if any, high school players that can bring a gym to their feet with their explosiveness like McKinney regularly did in gyms all across St Louis. “Hoodie Rio,” as he is known to many, has become a favorite of highlight reel producers nationwide thanks to his incredible leaping ability, the same leaping ability that had him competing for the state championship in the high jump.

The McKinney name isn’t new to Missouri fans. Mario’s cousin Jimmy was a fan favorite for the Tigers from 2002-2006. As far as how that played a role in his recruitment, Mario’s father says it wasn’t much of a factor.

“Maybe a small bit, it was more about knowing the family, building relationships, and being able to stay home.”

McKinney will be joined on campus this summer by fellow 2019 signees Tray Jackson and Kobe Brown. We will work to catch up with the two of them this week.

Getting on campus is an exciting time for the freshman but there is no shortage of work to be put in before the season comes around this winter. McKinney Sr. knows his son is ready for the challenge.

“Just got to put in work as a freshman and everything else will fall in place.”