Basketball is evolving.
Traditional positions are evaporating in favor of an army of tall, ultra-athletic freaks who can defend multiple positions. That’s exactly why the NBA is so bewitched with Michael Porter Jr.
Porter, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Missouri, won’t play in his first official college basketball game until November, yet he’s already established himself as a top prospect for the 2018 NBA Draft. ESPN, Scout and Rivals all had him ranked as the No. 1 recruit in his class coming out of high school. Porter is 6-foot-10, but ferociously athletic. Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin recently said he’s like a combination of Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett. That’s as special as it is terrifying.
How is such a basketball specimen forged? For one, Porter hasn’t just been playing basketball since he was 3 years old—he’s been actively training at basketball since he was 3 years old.
“I first picked up a basketball and took it seriously when I was 3 years old,” Porter told STACK. “My dad asked me if it was something I’d like to do and if it was, then I’d have to take it serious. He was going to work me out. So ever since then, I’ve been taking it seriously and really giving it my all.”
He spent much of his early childhood in Noblesville, Indiana, a suburb north of Indianapolis. After family dinner, Porter’s father would take him and his three siblings—Jontay, Cierra and Bri—out back to train. It was during these training sessions Porter honed the skills that make him the freakish talent he is today.
“Every night after we got done with dinner, we’d go out on the half court that we had. He’d put me along with my two sisters and brother through workouts every single night. I remember he had us only shoot from short ranges. He didn’t let me shoot 3’s until I was in fourth or fifth grade. He wanted my mechanics to be perfect,” Porter says. “Starting that young and working on (my) ball-handling as a little kid—I grew taller and taller but I still had that ball-handling.”
Additionally, Porter’s father made sure to avoid any teams which might pigeonhole his eldest son as a center or power forward simply because of his height. “My dad always made sure I was on teams that didn’t put me in a box. They let me be confident, they let me play how I can play. I’m 6-foot-10 but i have the skills of a guard. I like to call myself a position-less player. I can play point guard through center. I’ll go post up or ill bring the ball up and start the offense. I’d describe myself as versatile,” Porter says. NBA scouts do, too—one recently told SI.com that “it’s almost to the point where I wouldn’t even tag (Porter) with a position.”
With the hype surrounding him already reaching deafening levels, Porter is a prime one-and-done candidate. But this one season at Missouri has the chance to be extremely special for him. His younger brother, Jontay, will also be a freshman on the team next season (Jontay was originally in the class of 2018 but reclassified so he could enter Missouri at the same time as Michael). The Porter brothers have the chance to be a dominant duo, as Jontay was ranked the 25th best prospect in his class by ESPN. And that dad who taught them everything? He’ll be one of their assistant coaches. Add it all together and it’s the ingredients for a fascinating and potentially historic season in Columbia.
Meanwhile, Michael’s working his butt off to prove he’s the top NBA prospect on Earth. “I do a lot of the same stuff my dad had me start doing when I was little. Keeping it polished, getting better and better. I got on the gun every night, try to get up 500 shots a day. It all goes back to my dad and what he thinks is best. I know he has my best interests in mind,” Porter says.
Photo Credit: Home Team Hoops