The alarm sounded a few minutes after 9 a.m. Saturday morning, and one of the most coveted high school basketball recruits in the country sprung out of his bed in Columbia and boarded a bus destined for Lawrence, a town his friends like to call “enemy territory.”
Father Tolton Catholic junior Michael Porter Jr., accompanied by his teammates, arrived at Allen Fieldhouse in time for the 1 p.m. tipoff between Kansas and TCU. He sat behind the home bench for Kansas, one of nearly a dozen schools that remain in the mix for his services.
On the way home, Tolton stopped over at Johnson County Community College, where, after 10 p.m., Porter served as the worth-the-price-of-admission draw in the Best of Midwest Showcase.
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For Porter, the No. 3-ranked recruit in the junior class by Rivals.com, this is the new normal — striking a daily balance between planning his future and savoring the present.
“I feel blessed about it,” Porter said Saturday prior to Tolton’s tipoff against Blue Valley Northwest. “Not every kid gets to grow up like this.”
The privilege comes complete with a 6-foot-9 frame and explosive athleticism that make videos of his dunks frequently passed around on social media.
But on Saturday, he began the day as an observer, with a spot close enough to the Kansas sideline to hear coach Bill Self communicate with his players. Kansas remains high on Porter’s list of schools, which also includes Missouri, Duke and Kentucky, among a handful of others.
“It was a great experience. That venue is ridiculous,” said Porter, who previously visited Allen Fieldhouse for its annual Late Night in the Phog. “Just the way Coach Self has them play really hard all the time and the way he runs that program is something that’s cool to me.”
Self returned the favor late Saturday, planted on the wooden seats inside Johnson County Community College to watch Porter play.
Some highlights there.
Porter threw down four dunks and scored 34 points in Tolton's 58-53 win against Blue Valley Northwest. In one play, Porter passed the ball off the backboard to himself and threw down a two-handed jam. A couple of minutes later in the third quarter, he opted for a reverse dunk on a fastbreak.
Porter hopes to return to Lawrence later this month to watch the Jayhawks play Kentucky. Visits to other schools will be scheduled, too. The ultimate determination will come before his senior season begins. That’s the plan, anyway.
“There's no perfect school. I could see myself playing at all these different schools on my list,” Porter said. “It really comes down to developing relationships with the coaches.”
The recruitment process is a familiar one to Porter's family. His two sisters — Bri and Cierra — play for Missouri, where their father, Michael Sr., is an assistant coach for the women. His younger brother, Jontay, who is more suited to play in the post, has already committed to Washington. Jontay is a sophomore at Tolton.
Jontay and Michael have spent most of their lives playing competitive basketball together. But Michael says Jontay’s commitment to Washington is unlikely to influence his decision.
Why? He has that long-term future in mind.
“Lord-willing,” he says. “I’ll be a one-and-done player in college.”