Before Missouri’s public-address announcer could finish saying Michael Porter Jr.’s name, it was drowned out by the thunderous applause throughout Mizzou Arena.
The nation’s top freshman made his unofficial debut to Missouri’s fanbase at the program’s Mizzou Madness on Saturday and didn’t disappoint. Porter Jr. won the event’s dunk contest and started the scrimmage off with a dunk off a steal from freshman point guard Blake Harris. Porter, a 6-foot-10 forward, also showed off his passing ability and court vision throughout the afternoon.
The tipoff event was a family affair for the Porters, as brother Jontay, a fellow freshman forward, was introduced along with sisters Bri and Cierra, who both play for the women’s team.
“It was amazing,” Porter Jr. said. “Those were the fans that will be there during the year. It felt like home.”
Mizzou Arena’s lower bowl was almost completely filled for the event, which was a task in itself for home games the past few years, while a handful of fans sat in the upper decks for Mizzou Madness.
The program featured a shooting contest, which paired members of both basketball teams with a fan from the Zou Crew, Missouri’s student cheering section, with the winner being the first to score a layup, free throw, three-point shot and halfcourt shot before the other team.
While the team of Cierra Porter and Cullen VanLeer emerged victorious, the real star of the contest was freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon.
Tilmon hit a three-pointer and a halfcourt shot in the first round of the contest, drawing cheers from a crowd that will likely see him stay in the paint for his career.
Senior wing Jordan Barnett said after the game that Tilmon told the team he’d sink the halfcourt shot on one of his first tries.
“He got lucky,” MU head coach Cuonzo Martin joked after the scrimmages.
Porter Jr. and senior wing Barnett stole the show in the dunk contest before both teams scrimmaged for 15 to 20 minutes respectively.
Missouri now turns its attention to Kansas, which it plays Sunday at the Sprint Center in a exhibition game to raise money for hurricane victims.
Barnett said the team has already watched film on the Jayhawks and thinks the key to the game will be stopping them in transition.
“They space you out and they like creating for one another,” Barnett said. “They fly up and down the court, so that’s our biggest concern right now.”
Women’s roster deep in the paint
The Missouri women’s basketball team is deep with post players after getting back a healthy Jordan Frericks who has fully recovered from an ACL tear that caused her to miss all of last season.
Frericks looked like her old self on Saturday, as did fellow senior Kayla Michael (formally McDowell), who played last year but was limited by injuries. Add in junior Cierra Porter, redshirt sophomore Hannah Schuchts and freshman Emmanuelle Tahane and MU coach Robin Pingeton has plenty of talent to work with amongst post players.
Odds and ends
▪ Tilmon said he’s looking forward to the Kansas game on Saturday at Sprint Center because the Jayhawks made a strong recruiting push for him after he asked out of his letter of intent with Illinois. “They’re one of the great programs,” he said.
▪ Porter Jr. offered his praise for fellow Columbia native and women’s basketball star Sophie Cunningham. Aside from Porter Jr., no player got a louder ovation from the fans on Saturday than Cunningham, who like Porter Jr. is the face of their program with family ties to the school. Porter Jr. said Cunningham reminds him a bit of the WNBA star Kelsey Plum, who broke the NCAA scoring record at Washington when Porter lived in Seattle.
“She’s a great player,” he said. “I just like how competes. Even out there she was competing.”