Porter looms as top Tiger prospect

As a national basketball scout, I’d love to tell you that there’s something innate that enables me to spot a potential superstar. Like the music company executive plucking a local, unknown band from smoky dives and grooming them into a cultural phenomenon, I’d love to say that these guys need people like me.



But we’d all know that’s a lie. Columbia (Mo.) Tolton Catholic sophomore Michael Porter proves the point. At last weekend’s Warmup in Bentonville, Ark., Porter established himself as the top overall prospect at the event even to those who’d never heard of him previously.

You don’t have to be a scout to see it — just a human with eyes and a brain.

That doesn’t mean Porter is the perfect player. Far from it. He isn’t the next LeBron, as some others may attempt to portray him in future years; he’s just a nearly certain NBA lottery pick and long-time professional performer with the potential to become the No.1 player in the Class of 2017.

But don’t ascribe the preceding thought to overhype. If anything, it’s slightly underhype.

At 6-8 and gifted with ball skills wildly advanced for his age and an easygoing camera manner, Porter will be a media darling and, far more importantly for his career, projects as an NBA priority. He’s an outstanding shooter and ballhandler who has the size to rise and shoot over even the staunchest perimeter defender. His style fits the current NBA in prototypical fashion.

Porter could become an elite scorer at the highest level

Meanwhile, he’s an above-average athlete in an overall sense and particularly explosive when he’s able to generate a head of steam and jump off one foot. He doesn’t yet possess an elite first step, straight-up leap or much of a post-up game, however, attributes and skills that ideally he’ll add over time.

His jump shot will be ready to go out of the box. Porter unleashes deep threes with the kind of confidence that only the best shooters possess, that undying belief that every shot is going to splash the net.

His pedigree also is unquestionable. He hails from a family of eight children, and his older siblings and parents all remain actively involved with the game. His mother (Lisa) is the sister of Missouri head women’s coach Robin Pingeton, and his father (Michael Sr.) is an assistant coach for the squad. Two of his sisters will suit up for the Tigers next season as well.

Naturally, then, Mizzou looms as a significant factor in his recruitment. But don’t expect Washington (Lorenzo Romar is Porter’s godfather), Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, Duke, North Carolina or others to concede.

Porter insists there are no leaders and doesn’t express any desire to accelerate his recruitment.

”I’m just trying to get better and play against the best competition I can,” Porter said. “I don’t get that as much in high school, which is why EYBL is great. I’m not feeling any pressure to commit anywhere and am not ready to narrow my list.”

Missouri obviously will face pressure from local fans to land him. There’s no tip-toeing around that, given the family’s extensive ties to the city, university and athletic department. And with the Porters being so close-knit, one almost would have to believe that the Tigers will be there until the very end. The question remains whether they can close, but odds are we won’t get an answer to that anytime soon.

For the time being, it’s all about development. Every elite prospect must resist the temptation to coast. Porter easily possesses the ability to excel in high school without needing to hone his craft, but he remains committed to addressing his areas for improvement.

”I’m working on my lateral quickness and my strength,” Porter said. “I’m just trying to polish everything on the offensive end.”

Porter will tour the Nike circuit with Mo-Kan Elite, which will attend the opening EYBL event next weekend in Hampton, Va. He’ll be one of the top players in attendance and undoubtedly a must-watch for multiple major programs, the Tigers notably among them.

As was the case in Arkansas, the fans there will become insta-scouting experts as well.



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