University of Missouri

Mizzou forward Michael Porter Jr.’s shot-making sets him apart

Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. is no longer the consensus top 2017 prospect in the country, according to several of the outlets that rank and sort incoming recruits.

When Sierra Canyon power forward Marvin Bagley III reclassified and committed to Duke, he supplanted Porter in 247Sports’ Top 247 and composite rankings and in the ESPN 100 ranking for 2017.

Who’s really going to have a better season — excuse me, college career, because that will be likely the extent of it for both five-star studs — and who’s going to be the more-coveted NBA prospect next June?

Who knows, but what makes Porter such a basketball savant anyway? As win-starved Tigers fan salivate in anticipation of the Nov. 10 opener against Iowa State at Mizzou Arena, what sort of magic should they expect?

Ask his new teammates, if Porter’s greatness as a basketball player can be distilled to one thing, it’s shot-making.

“He makes tough, tough, tough, tough shots,” freshman guard C.J. Roberts said. “He makes tough shots consistently. That’s something I’ve never seen from a high-school player in a while.”

“His shot-making is insane,” senior forward Jordan Barnett said. “It’s ridiculous. You really can’t contest his shot, but, even if you do do a good job, there’s still a high chance it’s going in. … He’ll hit the most ridiculous shots and so consistently. His shot-making ability is really going to deflate some teams.”

“We’ve had so many one-on-one battles — me, him, (freshman guard) Blake Harris and C.J. Roberts coming in here and playing King of the Court — but he’s definitely the best player I’ve ever played against,” senior guard and Canisius graduate transfer Kassius Robertson said. “You can play perfect defense and he’s 6-(feet)-10, so he’s still going to shoot right over you. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do. It’s hard to get a hand up on that and you can’t really block his shot. He’s as close to unstoppable as I’ve ever played against.”

Asked if he can compare Porter to anyone he’s faced at the college level, a list that includes LSU’s Ben Simmons two years ago, junior forward and Blue Springs South graduate Kevin Puryear paused and said, “No, I can’t. He’s very unique. And the moves that you see, he actually practices them, like one-leg jumpers and one-leg turnarounds and stuff like that.”

“It’s amazing how well he can shoot the ball,” freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon said.

New Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin offers the same assessment about Porter’s scoring prowess, which many believe will be program-changing during the next seven months but, at the very least, should be a refreshing change of pace for the Tigers’ faithful.

Missouri had three players average at least 14 points per game during the 2013-14 season — Jabari Brown (19.9), Jordan Clarkson (17.5) and Earnest Ross (14.0) — but nobody has sniffed that since.

The Tigers haven’t had anyone average more than 12.2 points during the last three seasons.

It’s not that MU’s leading scorers in those seasons — Johnathan Williams (11.9 in 2014-15), Kevin Puryear (11.5 in 2015-16) and Barnett (12.2 in 2016-17) — weren’t fine players, but Porter is a next-level bucket-making prodigy.

“He’s a talented player, but I think what makes him good (is) he has the ability to score,” Martin said. “The thing I like about it is he’s an aggressive scorer and he looks for his shot, but he’s a willing passer and, while I’ve never played with him, he appears and looks like a good teammate.”

Porter might take some awkward shots as Puryear alluded to, but “he’s not like a guy just forcing shots, and bad shots, because he understands the game and he wants to be a good player,” Martin said. “He knows who he is, but I would have liked to play with him. Just watching him now, I wouldn’t have minded playing with him, and I played with a great one in Glenn Robinson (at Purdue).”

It’s probably insane to think Porter will average 30.3 points as Robinson did during his junior season with the Boilermakers — no high-major player since “The Big Dog” has reached 30 points per game — but it’s not crazy to imagine him doubling any Mizzou player’s offensive output from the last three seasons.

“Offensively, he’s probably the best player I’ve matched up against ever,” Puryear said. “He’s somebody that can score on all three levels of the floor — mid-range, the three and driving to the basket. He’s very strong, very athletic with a quick second jump, and he just has all the intangibles.”

For those curious, Willie Smith owns the Tigers’ single-season and career records for scoring average. He was good for 25.3 points in 1975-76 and 23.9 points overall during his two seasons with MU.

As for being dethroned by Bagley, Porter will have to be content with scoreboard bragging rights.

Nathan Hale High beat Sierra Canyon in last December’s Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon with Porter pouring in 27 points with 15 rebounds and four steals, while Bagley scored 22 in a losing effort.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer

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