There were times over the last two seasons of the Tubby Smith regime that he complained about the lack of toughness of his teams. Perhaps it was a personnel problem; perhaps it was a preparation. As enigmatic as Billy Gillispie appears to be one thing is crystal clear, he wants his teams both mentally and physically tough.
The epitome of that toughness is one Michael Porter. Throughout this season there has been constant questioning from the media and others about why Gillispie continues to start Porter?
Gillispie wants an extension of himself on the floor and along with the obvious improvement in his floor game, and that's all the reason need to explain why he starts Porter. Porter still wears in his left eyebrow, the battle-scar of that toughness. The scar is the result of a head-to-head collision with his teammate Ramon Harris.
Before dedicating himself strictly to basketball, he was a football player in high school. It's clear that his time spent playing football in the past has contributed heavily to his physical toughness. There are some voices of authority, or those who receive their daily dosage from the little ‘Smart Pill machine,' who believe when the competition gets tougher, Porter will be replaced in the starting lineup. They still just don't get it; or they perhaps need their dosage increased so they can see the obvious.
Gillispie said the Florida Atlantic experience was what his team needed. This team was obviously better than many thought, or as Gillispie said "I thought they played out of their minds."
Porter played 27-minutes and committed just one turnover. Supposedly a down SEC will test Porter more severely, but it is obvious he is getting better.
What are some of the contributing factors for his improvement?
"It would be hard for me to play if I wasn't physical," Porter explained. "My job is to start the defense. I'm trying to play like there's no pressure on me. Sometimes I was thinking to much earlier in the year."
There were times when the fans reacted vociferously to his mistake prone play. How did he shoulder that criticism?
The point guard said. "It had to motivate me a little bit. I just had to block out everything. I'm now going North/South and not play with the ball out there. I'm a lot more comfortable right now. The biggest change is I'm not reacting to what the defense is doing, but rather I'm doing what I do now."
Toughness is the staple of a Billy Gillispie coached team and Porter is beginning to consistently bring that toughness to the table. That's one part of the Gillispie mystery equation that no one has to guess about.
Demaree: Michael Porter displays toughness
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