New Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was understandably and necessarily coy when asked if he anticipated using the team’s 13th scholarship for 2017-18, but his tone and the hint of a smile was telling.
“We’re always recruiting,” Martin said with a lighthearted inflection. “You know that.”
The most obvious and most discussed possibility for that final grant-in-aid is that Nathan Hale junior forward Jontay Porter — who played last season in Seattle, but spent his first two prep seasons at Father Tolton Catholic High in Columbia — will graduate early from high school and reclassify from the 2018 recruiting class.
He’s already committed to Missouri — where his brother, consensus top 2017 prospect Michael Porter Jr., signed in April, where his dad, Michael Porter Sr., is an assistant on Martin’s staff and where his aunt, Robin Pingeton, coaches a women’s basketball team that includes his older sister, Cierra and Bri.
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NCAA rules prohibit Martin from discussing players who’ve yet to sign with Mizzou, so he wasn’t able to answer questions about Jontay Porter.
No decision is expected until mid-July as Porter said he plans to wait until after Mokan Elite wraps up its Peach Jam title defense before announcing his plans.
Porter’s game certainly seems ready for the collegiate level.
During 16 games in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League regular season, he averaged 18.1 points and 12.6 rebounds.
Only Marvin Bagley III grabbed more boards per game (14.9) and Porter’s scoring average is tied for 14th nationally as he shot 43.2 percent from three-point range on 88 attempts.
Porter led Mokan Elite to an 11-5 record, earning All-EYBL first-team honors from d1circuit.com along the way (along with former Bishop Miege center Bol Bol).
While Martin couldn’t mention Jontay Porter by name, there’s no rule barring the Tigers’ players from discussing the possibility.
At least one returning player, senior wing Jordan Barnett, seemed to forget Mizzou still technically has an open scholarship because Jakoby Kemp opted to transfer.
“I’m tripping …,” Barnett said with a laugh. “I would like to have Jontay. That would be nice. Whatever happens, happens. It’s ultimately his decision.”
One that shouldn’t come as a surprise when it happens.