TIREY: Porter is a coach's son and coach's player

Five years ago, Kentucky fans were wondering about a little known recruit Tubby Smith had brought in from Modesto Christian High School in Modesto, California. Now Chuck Hayes is one of the most beloved Wildcats of all time. Smith is hoping lightning will strike twice from Modesto.

The University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball team and head coach Tubby Smith just recently put the finishing touches on the 2005 recruiting class. Now Smith and his staff would normally turn their attention on the 2006 class. But, as we all know, there is nothing normal about the way Tubby Smith does business. He has been concentrating on the 2006 class for a while now. That may be because the 2006 class is probably one of the most loaded classes in a long time. All the work is starting to pay off, because on Tuesday the news broke that Smith had received the first commitment for that class, and he went back to some old stomping grounds to get it.

Five years ago, Kentucky fans were wondering about a little known recruit Tubby Smith had brought in from Modesto Christian High School in Modesto, California. Now Chuck Hayes is one of the most beloved Wildcats of all time. Smith is hoping lightning will strike twice from Modesto. The head coach at Modesto Christian is Gary Porter. He was the head coach there when Chuck Hayes committed to UK and he has a lot of respect for the power forward. "He's a fine young man," said Porter about Hayes. "I followed his career. And there are actually probably a lot of Kentucky fans here in the valley that weren't five years ago, that are now."

Porter's son Michael has chosen to play his college basketball at the University of Kentucky. Michael is a 6'3", 188 pound point guard that averaged 16.5 points per game, and shot a little over fifty percent from behind the three point line his junior year for Modesto Christian. Michael made a visit to the UK campus with his teammate, Adrian Oliver, a 6'4" highly rated combo guard, this past weekend. Before they left, Tubby Smith offered both of them. It took less than 48 hours for Michael to make up his mind and commit to Kentucky. Oliver will visit Washington this weekend, but was as impressed with Kentucky as his teammate.

Gary Porter also thinks a lot of the Kentucky basketball program and coaches. So much so, that he will entrust them with his son. "It's a long way from home," said the coach and father. "But we've come to know the people at Kentucky, and the coaches, and the school, and the program. It's very respected. So it's a nice pipeline going on. Hopefully, it can continue in the future." He's equally enamored with Tubby and his coaching staff. "I think they are the finest in the country. I respect them very much. They are very kind and gracious. They've always been upfront and honest with us. You might be able to match them, but you won't do better."

So Michael visited and decided that Kentucky was for him. "It's been kind of crazy," said the younger Porter. "I've always known I wanted to go there. I visited, and it was a great experience. I thought about it for a few days, and I liked it a lot. I knew if I went anywhere else, it wouldn't even compare to Kentucky." The actual offer came at the end of the visit, but Porter and the UK coaching staff wanted to keep it low-key. But Porter found it hard to keep the excitement down. "I was pretty happy. I was waiting for it. I am sure Adrian was, too. We were waiting for him to ask. I was happy and relieved at the same time." What caught his eye on the visit? "I had heard a lot about it. There were some surprising things. It was a lot of what I expected, but it was also more. That's what helped me decide. I like the coaches a lot. They made me feel comfortable. Tubby is someone I can play under."

The only other offer Michael had received before the offer from Kentucky, was from San Jose State. But he had been receiving a ton of interest from schools such as Princeton and Cornell in the Ivy League, Washington and Cal in the Pac-10, Pacific, and others. Grades are not a problem with him, either.

The elder Porter says that Michael is a point guard in the classic sense. "He's most useful [for our team] as a leader. We always put him on the toughest offensive player, so he's my best defensive player. He's a good uptempo player. We like to run. We averaged 82 points per game, so we get up and down the court. His strengths include being good at getting everybody involved in the game." I asked the coach what Michael needed to work on the most before getting to Kentucky. "He needs to work on just more of his mental game, and more of recognizing when he has an open shot." So any doubts that Michael can play in the tough, competitive SEC? "No, no doubt in my mind at all. And that's as a coach, not a father."


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