A familiar last name stuffed stat sheets in Hampton, Va., last weekend during the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League’s opening weekend. Yes, “Porter.”
This year, though, it was the younger brother Jontay posting double-doubles for Kansas City-based MOKAN Elite on the AAU circuit, not Missouri basketball signee Michael Porter Jr., who took the league’s co-MVP honor last year.
What was it like playing games without his brother for the first time in eight years?
“It’s great,” Jontay Porter said with a laugh in a phone conversation with The Star Tuesday night. “I’m playing, but it’s cool. It’s definitely different not having him by my side. It’s a great experience. I’ve learned a lot already, so hopefully I continue to grow as a player without Mike.”
The big question, though, revolves around that fact.
Does Jontay, who played as a junior last year at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, want to reclassify and play with his brother on next year’s Missouri basketball team? Or does he want to play out his senior year at Tolton High School in Columbia?
“It’s a thing I’m been tussling with a lot,” Jontay said. “Everybody’s been asking me. I don’t really have a solid answer, but I’ve prayed about it, thought about it and talked about it with my parents and I should come to a conclusion here in a few days.
“It’s really tough because there’s so many pros and cons to both. I don’t really think there’s a wrong decision.”
Just days ago, USA Today reported Jontay was “leaning towards” reclassifying.
A five-star prospect and the son of Missouri assistant coach Michael Porter Sr., Jontay said he hasn’t had much time to think about the decision since. On Friday, the 6-foot-9 forward traveled to Virginia to compete in four games that lasted until Sunday.
Jontay’s MOKAN squad won all four games thanks to his 19.2 points and 13 rebounds per game average. His performance earned him first-team honors handed out by D1circuit.com.
On Monday, Jontay then traveled to Columbia for an official visit. Since his dad’s first visit to the city he grew up in, this was his first time back.
“It was awesome,” Porter said. “I got to see a lot of people that I was friends with before we moved. It was awesome seeing the community all support us and how excited they were for us to come back.”
The excitement expressed in his voice also carried into conversations about Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin. Jontay said he was impressed by the first-year coach’s demeanor.
“He’s an intense dude but he really has a great personality,” Jontay said. “He has everything I’m looking for in a coach at the collegiate level.”
As of now, Jontay is focused on the summer and his efforts with MOKAN. He’s enjoyed being a leader in the absence of his brother, and it’s allowed him to “be more aggressive offensively,” he said.
In some ways, it’s served as validation.
“I’ve never been a dude that’s really cared about other people’s opinions, but this is really something I’ve wanted — for people to realize I’m a good player in my own right and not just under my brother’s shadow all the time,” Jontay said. “This is a great opportunity. If I’m doing good, people realize I’m a good player myself.”
Each day that goes by, the decision he said he's wanted to make the last month looms. He admits he needs “just one” conversation with his parents to figure things out.
Jontay said his ultimate goal is to play in the NBA and that he thinks he’d develop as a player quicker if he attended Missouri next year. Still, he said skipping senior year would be like “rushing life a bit.”
“It’s tough. Every day I kind of go back and forth,” Jontay said, “but I know it’s going to work out for the good.”