TIREY: Porter ready and welcomes competition

With the flurry of activity in basketball recruiting over the past few days, and the Kentucky basketball program adding so many guards to their list of commitments, it was time to check in with the first commitment on that list. Michael Porter, the 6'2" point guard from Modesto Christian high school in California was the first in the 2006 recruiting class to say OK to head coach Tubby Smith. And his opinion of more guards being added to that class might surprise you.

First things first, an update on Michael's health. Porter sustained a leg injury earlier this year that kept him from playing football this season for Modesto Christian. He is an excellent football player, good enough to be recruited by the likes of the number one football team in the country, the USC Trojans.

The leg injury will not keep him out of practice for basketball season much longer. "Right now, I'm doing pretty good," said Porter. "I have been going to therapy three times a week, and next week I'm supposed to be released to be able to play full-time. They said I have been healing a lot faster than what normal people do, so things are going pretty good." The injury has kept him out of action for a while, making it difficult to watch both his football and basketball teammates be able to go full speed. "It's been hard. I've had to work on different things of my game, the mental part. I've been able to work a lot on my shot and my form. So I think it's been, actually, pretty good for me."

Michael has the luxury of being coached by his father, Gary Porter. The elder Porter knows a thing or two about Kentucky players, having coached former Kentucky star and new Houston Rocket Chuck Hayes at Modesto Christian. Coach Porter has had a hard time keeping his son down. "I think November 1 when we open practice," said Coach Porter, "he should be pretty close to being ready. He has been scrimmaging a little bit the last couple of weeks. Other than being out of shape, he looks pretty good. We try not to go too hard on his scrimmaging, although he probably plays a little bit longer than he should. He's anxious. He's normally playing football and he wants to do something right now."

Even though Michael made a commitment to Kentucky early on, he was still being recruited, but not by who you might think. "It was more football schools," said Michael, "because most of the basketball schools knew and stayed away. USC still wanted to come down and visit with me. I was set on my decision, but a few schools kept recruiting, and it was mostly football schools. USC and Harvard were still coming after me a little bit."

Being in California, the Porters have had an up close look at the other UK commitment from the West Coast, Derrick Jasper. Coach Porter's assessment of Jasper will make any UK fan smile. "We've played against him and I've seen him play several times," said Coach Porter. "I think he's an excellent pickup for UK. He's a good young man and comes from an excellent background. Jasper, when it's all said and done, could even play the three, if he wanted to. I think they got a nice player who can play all three spots. During the AAU season, they needed him to be more of a true point guard. He can score. He will surprise you. He's a better scorer than people think he is. He's got a little bit of a range. He has nice penetration. He can go inside, too."

With three guards in the recruiting class, and the need for more than one big man, really, the rumors have been swirling about Michael being a candidate for prep school next year. Coach Porter said his son has not been asked that question. "As of right now," said Coach Porter, "it has never been mentioned and never been brought up. Whether it's going to be and what the plan is, I don't know. Obviously, his grades are good enough to continue his education in college. I think he's ready. But I'm not going to say that he wouldn't. That would certainly be up to Michael. I will give him all the advice I can. But we haven't heard one hint of that and we're not even thinking about that, right now."

What does Michael think about it? "I wouldn't want to do it if it was my choice. If it needed to happen, obviously, we would think about it more if Coach Smith asked me to." And if all three guards come to Kentucky at the same time? "It doesn't bother me. I am going to have to work for my job, anyway. Why not beat competition?"

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