TIREY: Porter ready for playoffs to begin

KSR is profiling Kentucky's basketball signees for 2006. This is the fourth installment of the six-part series, with guard Michael Porter the subject.

Cat fans are hoping that the next product from Modesto Christian High School in California will have the same effect the last one did on the UK basketball team. Chuck Hayes' alma mater is sending the Cats Michael Porter next season. And the 6'2", 180-pound guard is anxious to get started. But first, there is business he needs to finish. The playoffs are about to begin.

Porter has the luxury of playing for his dad, Gary Porter. The elder Porter is the head coach of Modesto Christian and coached Hayes, as well. His team's roster resembles a mini-Oak Hill, with at least three division one signees, and the chance for three more to sign with division one schools before the season is over. The season has been a good one for the Porters, as Michael explains. "I think we have had a great season," said the guard. "We're 24-4, and the four games we lost, we had key guys out sick or hurt. I think overall, out team played really good. We had a pretty tough schedule and we beat some good teams. We won some tournaments. But I think right now we are playing the best we have, and that's good going into the playoffs." Sounds like the Tubby Smith philosophy - peak performance at tournament time.

I asked Michael about his individual stats this season,including his scoring average. "I think it's at 15.6 points per game, somewhere around fifteen. I have a little over eight assists per game. And then I am averaging around six rebounds and three steals per game, too." With rebounding totals like that, comparisons come to mind to Rajon Rondo, the UK guard who has led the Cats in rebounding since early in the season. Why so many rebounds, with all that talent on his squad? "It is my nature. I just want the ball, however I can get it. Sometimes that means I have to go rebound. I just want the ball in my hands."

Porter was probably a better football player than anything else coming into this season. His play on the gridiron was attracting attention from the likes of Southern Cal. But he suffered a leg injury before the season, and was not able to play football. He decided to concentrate on hoops, and the injury is healing well. "It actually is going really good right now. I am not having any problems. When I got hurt, it actually helped me. I got a little bit of a rest, and I bounced back pretty good, I thought. I'm doing physical therapy as a precaution."

Porter has watched the Cats several times this season. "I think they will play good at times, and then I think they will kind of lose focus. Now, I don't know what to say, because I'm not the coach, and I don't know what is going on. But if I were there, I would always try to bring intensity to the floor, especially on the defensive side. It seems when they are intense on the defensive side, it leads to easy, fast break points."

Porter has also been working on certain aspects of his game, for when he arrives in Lexington. "I have been focused more on catching and shooting the ball. Because I know that Sparks is going to be gone, and there is not as many catch and shoot guys. So I'm working on that, so that they can depend on me for threes and stuff like that." After the performance Saturday against South Carolina, I don't think Tubby would turn down another Patrick Sparks, if that is who Porter can be.


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