A year from now, Missouri freshman forward Michael Porter Jr. probably will be a multi-millionaire.
Right now, he’s worried about pizza money.
Porter, who is the consensus top basketball prospect in the 2017 recruiting class and the presumptive top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, started summer school at MU last month.
He won’t begin receiving a cost-of-attendance check until the fall semester, but Porter can hardly wait.
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“He’s very excited about the $1,400 stipend during the school year,” Tigers junior forward Kevin Puryear said. “He’s extremely excited about that, and I’m like, ‘Dude, c’mon, a year from now things may be a little bit different.’ But he’s a good kid to be around, and I really enjoy him.”
Porter and company have dedicated the summer to making sure his immense talent fuels Final Four dreams within a program that’s averaged nine wins during the last three seasons.
“He’s well ahead of his years as far as his skill set,” Puryear said. “His skill set is second to none. Just watching his footwork and the way he shoots the ball, even though he’s only 18 years old, he’s just a program-changing talent and I’m glad to have him here.”
Porter — who set the record straight about his height, admitting “I’m probably 6-9 1/2 ” — beams as he talks about the conditioning, strength training and team workouts that have consumed his days during the last two months as Mizzou prepares for a potentially magical 2017-18 campaign.
“There’s a lot of expectations for us to get that back going, but I just see that as an opportunity,” Porter said. “I think we’ve got great players coming in and great players coming back, so I feel like we’ve got the team to do something special.”
As much focus as there is on Porter, he said the presence of three other highly touted freshmen — center Jeremiah Tilmon and guards Blake Harris and C.J. Roberts — mean he doesn’t shoulder the pressure to turn around the Tigers’ fortunes alone.
“I don’t think people understand how good (Tilmon) is, how good Blake is or C.J. Roberts,” Porter said. “The other guys coming back are working real hard, and we’re trying to change the culture around here to a winning culture. … As a collective group, if we come together, we can get this thing rolling.”
The bulk of those hopes remain pinned to Porter’s otherworldly talents, which have left even his teammates marveling.
“Honestly, I’ve never gone against anybody like him,” senior forward Jordan Barnett said. “I’ve never guarded anything like that. It’s almost like what I would equate to guarding (Kevin Durant). He’s 6-10, long, can shoot, dribble, fast, athletic — it’s all the same package.”
That’s not empty talk either.
Barnett worked out a few times with Durant during his time at Texas before transferring to Missouri midway through the 2015-16 season.
“I got to play with (Durant) a couple times on his team, so I’ve definitely seen him in person and what he can do,” Barnett said. “Man, it’s very similar. It really is. I’m not just blowing out steam. (Porter’s) the real deal.”
As amazed as his fellow Tigers are by his talent, it’s Porter’s humility that might ensure a successful turnaround.
“He’s really humble and really anxious to work hard to get in the gym, to learn from us as the older guys on the team,” Barnett said. “Honestly, in my experience, that’s fairly unique for a really young player with that kind of high pedigree. It’s really good to see, and I can’t wait to see how it all goes.”
One thing is clear, Mizzou is eager to see how far Porter can take the program during the coming months.
“He’s a bona fide pro without a doubt, so I’m excited to see how he tears dudes up this year,” Puryear said. “It’s going to be exciting, not only to play with, but to just see him in big moments of games making big plays.”