Zagoria: Missouri lands potential future ‘NBA superstar’ in Michael Porter Jr.

Nathan Hale forward Michael Porter Jr. dribbles downcourt against Garfield in the first half of the Washington state boys 3A high school basketball championship, Saturday, March 4, 2017, in Tacoma, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Porter Jr., a potential future “NBA superstar,” ended the mild suspense involved in his recruitment on Friday and announced he would follow his father to Missouri.

The 6-foot-10 Porter Jr., who on March 23rd received his release from his National Letter of Intent at Washington, became a free agent after Washington fired coach Lorenzo Romar, Porter Jr.’s Godfather. New Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin then hired Michael Porter Sr., a former Missouri women’s assistant. Porter Jr. had briefly listed Washington, Missouri, Oklahoma and Virginia before choosing Missouri as expected.

Missouri is getting a player who could not only be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, but might be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick in this draft were he eligible.

“He would definitely be in the top 5,” one NBA executive told me of where Porter Jr. would go were he eligible for the loaded 2017 NBA Draft. Ironically, current Washington freshman Markelle Fultz is expected to be the No. 1 pick this year.

That has already inspired Tank Slogans such as “Put your house in disorder for Michael Porter” and “Sleep through the fourth quarter for Michael Porter.”

“I think he’s gonna be like an NBA superstar,” Nathan Hale coach Brandon Roy, the three-time NBA All-Star, told me in January at the Hoophall Classic, where Porter Jr. was the unofficial Most Outstanding Player of the event. “I think he’s going to be the face of the NBA. I know it’s big shoes and it’s early, but I think he’s going to be like that Kevin Durant, that Steph Curry, that James Harden.”

“He’s by far better than I was, and in so many areas,” Roy added. “He shoots it like a pro already. He can handle it. His work ethic is ridiculous. I have to tell him sometimes, ‘Hey, Mike, resting is a skill, too. You gotta know when to go, when to save it.’ He’s lifting weights two days a week, he’s really regimented.”

Porter Jr. has drawn comparisons to Durant and Paul George.

Porter Jr. said he embraces the comparisons.

“Yeah, I do, too,” he said. “Recently, it’s been more like Tracy McGrady back in the day. I’ve gotten that a lot. Paul George sometimes. But KD’s always in there. Just the bigger wings. I like to say I have my own game, but yeah. Kind of like Brandon but more explosive, so it’s kind of like an in-between thing. I wouldn’t like to label myself as one player, like KD or like Tracy McGrady, but those are some comparisons.”

As if landing Porter Jr. weren’t enough, Missouri could also add Jontay Porter, a 6-9 junior who had verbally committed to Washington for 2018, but on Friday reopened his recruitment.

As reported at ZAGSBLOG back in January, Jontay is considering enrolling this summer to play alongside his brother in what will likely be Michael’s only season on campus.

That would be some 1-2 punch for Missouri.

Enough to challenge Kentucky and its boatload of one-and-dones (or, in the case of Hamidou Diallo, one-and-a-half-and-dones)? Probably not, but Martin sure would make a splash in his first year on the job. And there would be a slew of NBA scouts coming through Columbia.

Which, in turn, would help future recruiting.

Porter Jr. had initially hoped to play for his Godfather Romar at Washington and believed strongly that the 2017-18 version of the Huskies would be an NCAA Tournament-type team.

“I look at it as an opportunity to do something special,” he said at the Hoophall. “You could go to Kentucky, Duke, one of those schools and be another great, or you could go to school at Washington and do what you can to try to help turn that program around.”

LSU’s Ben Simmons and Washington’s Fultz chose outside-the-box schools instead of powerhouses like Kentucky or Duke and they didn’t land in the NCAA Tournament. But it didn’t hurt their NBA Draft stock.

Now, Porter Jr. is headed to a rebuilding Missouri team where he could potentially be the third straight No. 1 pick to miss the Big Dance.

But it will be fun for basketball fans — especially those at Missouri — to watch him try to buck the trend.

Adam Zagoria is a basketball insider who has run ZAGSBLOG.com since 2006. He is a college basketball contributor for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the co-host of The Four Quarters Podcast via VSporto.com, which is available via iTunes. Zagoria is also a contributor to The New York Times. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.

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