Michael Porter Jr. is the highest-ranked prospect to sign with the Missouri men’s basketball team.
After Scout released its final rankings Wednesday, he’s the consensus No. 1 player in the 2017 recruiting class. Porter is a supremely talented 6-foot-10 small forward with range well beyond the three-point arc and borderline unfair athleticism.
Porter also has become the Tigers’ ace recruiter, working feverishly to lure more talent to play alongside him next season.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever want to play there, but when (Porter) committed there I decided to try it out and I loved it,” Word of God Christian Academy point guard Blake Harris said. “I didn’t ever think I’d land at Missouri, but somehow it happened and I feel like it’s the best fit for me. I think it’s going to work out really well.”
Along with Porter, Harris signed to play at Washington in November, but he changed his mind after Lorenzo Romar was fired as head coach at Washington.
Harris considered Mizzou for the first time in March because of Porter. Both players signed financial-aid agreements with the Tigers last week.
“Michael was probably the reason I took a visit, but not the reason I signed,” Harris said. “I just liked Coach (Cuonzo) Martin and the other coaches, the atmosphere, the facilities, and the students. That’s the reason I signed.”
Porter’s influence also played a role in East St. Louis (Ill.) High center Jeremiah Tilmon’s decision to request a release from his national letter of intent with Illinois.
Tilmon’s considering Mizzou and Kansas, among others.
Additionally, thanks to prodding from Porter, fellow 2017 five-star wing Kevin Knox, who averaged 28.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game last season at Tampa (Fla.) Catholic, also visited Missouri two weeks ago and welcomed Martin for an in-home visit Wednesday evening.
Knox is also considering Kentucky, Florida State, Duke and North Carolina.
“I text him or something every day,” Harris said. “I might put something on Instagram, hit him up with something like, ‘Be a Tiger’ or text him like, ‘Go Tigers’ every day, something like that.”
If the pieces fall into place, which would mean adding 247 Sports’ No. 8 player in Knox and No. 39 player in Tilmon, it would be the Tigers’ top-ranked signing class, including Richland (Texas) Hills High point guard C.J. Roberts.
It’s also still possible Porter’s younger brother, Jontay Porter, will reclassify and join the influx of talent bound for Columbia next season — talent that otherwise wouldn’t have likely given Martin’s fledgling MU program a chance.
“I want to start a legacy,” Harris said. “We can change the program. I want to win a national championship, so I hope that comes out of this.”
Harris spent a weekend on campus with Porter and Knox in early April and, even in that brief time, could sense the passion for basketball and the fan base’s hunger to rebound after averaging nine wins during the last three seasons.
“It seemed like they really want something special for the basketball program,” Harris said. “I know they’ve had a rich history in the past, so I guess they want that back at Missouri. (The fans) were crazy. They stopped us every second and took pictures. Michael was the lead of it. He’s the rock star, but they wanted to talk to me and Kevin a lot, get autographs and pictures.”
Currently, Mizzou’s class ranks No. 19 nationally in 247 Sports’ 2017 team rankings, but Martin’s debut class would zoom into the top 10, if not higher, with a few more additions.
Missouri’s had top-20 classes before, but it feels different because of the recent struggles — 27-68 in the last three seasons — along with the immense hype around Porter Jr.
Of course those previous top-rated classes offer a cautionary tale.
The Tigers ranked No. 11 in 2014, but all five players — Montaque Gill-Caesar, Jakeenan Gant, Namon Wright, D’Angelo Allen and Tramine Isabell — transferred within two seasons.
It was a similar story for the 2013 class, which ranked 16th in the country led by Johnathan Williams and Wes Clark.
Mizzou’s yearly basketball recruiting rankings
Players’ national ranking in parentheses
2017, No. 19: Michael Porter Jr. (1), Blake Harris (117), C.J. Roberts (166)
2016, No. 64: Frankie Hughes (202), Mitchell Smith (213), Willie Jackson (228), Reed Nikko (275)
2015, No. 48: K.J. Walton (131), Terrence Phillips (163), Cullen VanLeer (344), Kevin Puryear (347), Russell Woods (22 JC), Martavian Payne (45 JC)
2014, No. 11: Montaque Gill-Caesar (35), Jakeenan Gant (54), Namon Wright (69), D’Angelo Allen (156), Tramaine Isabell (260)
2013, No. 16: Johnathan Williams (45), Wes Clark (75), Keanau Post (7 JC), Torren Jones (152), Shane Rector (220)
2012, No. 58: Ryan Rosburg (208), Stefan Jankovic (210), Tony Criswell (6 JC), Dominique Bull (272)
2011, No. 215: Keion Bell (n/a), Earnest Ross (n/a)
2010, No. 14: Tony Mitchell (14), Phil Pressey (48), Ricardo Ratliffe (1 JC), Kadeem Green (203), Ricky Kreklow (216), Matt Pressey (26 JC)
2009, No. 53: Michael Dixon (121), Keith Dewitt (225), Jonathan Underwood (264), Tyler Stone (361), Chris Freeman (786)
2008, No. 43: Kim English (96), Marcus Denmon (142), Steve Moore (146), Miguel Paul (168), Keith Ramsey (21 JC), Laurence Bowers (296)
2007, No. 293: Justin Safford (292)
2006, No. 48: Keon Lawrence (119), J.T. Tiller (131), Stefhon Hannah (15 JC), Darryl Butterfield (41 JC)
2005, No. 37: Leo Criswell (69), Nate Minnoy (131), Matt Lawrence (558), James Douglas (607)
2004, No. 11: Marshall Brown (41), Jason Horton (65), Kalen Grimes (68), Glen Dandridge (88)
2003, No. 14: Linas Kleiza (14), Thomas Gardner (32), Spencer Laurie (245), Randy Pulley (55 JC), Jason Conley (526)
Source: 247 Sports