In 2007, when DeMarre Carroll decided to transfer from Vanderbilt to Missouri to team up with his uncle Mike Anderson — the Tigers’ basketball coach at the time — the end result would be a trip to the Elite Eight.
The Tigers are hoping to have the same success with the latest family tree to enter the program: the Porters, made up of freshmen Michael and Jontay Porter and their father, assistant coach Michael Sr.
Despite holding his summer camps at Tolton Catholic in Columbia, Porter’s old high school, the two have never met. But Carroll said he can relate to Porter because he knows the feeling of joining a team with high expectations and a great supporting cast.
“There’s going to be times everybody is going to expect you to do a lot of things that they want you to do,” Carroll told The Star, “but you have to be confident and stay in your skin.”
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Carroll left Missouri as a fan favorite and as a NBA first-round pick in 2009, the program’s last first-rounder. He’s now in his ninth year as a pro with his seventh team and believes playing for his uncle was the reason he made it to the NBA.
At SEC Tipoff last week in Nashville, Tenn., Anderson said he always believed the two would be able to work together because Carroll reached out first. That proved to Anderson, now at Arkansas, that Carroll knew what he was signing up for.
“To me that was the first part of the process,” Anderson said. “You’re coming, I’m going to coach you. This is my profession. Once he knew that, coming over to me, the rest was pretty easy. He knew I was going to do what I do.”
Carroll joined a Missouri team that already had established players like Zaire Taylor, but over the course of his two years in Columbia, Carroll emerged as the team’s leader and alpha dog, which Anderson said took him to a whole new level.
A 6-foot-8 forward, Carroll said at times his uncle was harder on him than the rest of the team but knew it was all for a good reason.
“It was kind of difficult, but at the same time it was a great feeling that you have family,” he said. “I kind of felt the family love when it was appropriate. I think it’s like it was a blessing in disguise when I was at Mizzou for my uncle playing me the way he did and pushing me the way he did to get the best out of me.”
Carroll never had the spotlight Porter has had at his age. Carroll was the No. 148 ranked player out of 150 by Rivals.com coming out of high school and a late first-round pick. Porter, 6 feet 10, claimed the No. 1 ranking in his class and is expected to be a top pick in next June’s draft.
Now a forward for the Brooklyn Nets, Carroll said he’s been able to play as long as he has because of how he’s dealt with adversity. Carroll said just about every player who gets drafted is one of the best players on their college team. The quicker they realize continuing their skillset from college isn’t going to cut it, Carroll said, the longer they will last.
“I’m amazed at what he’s done to be honest,” Anderson said of his nephew. “You’re talking about a guy that commanded a $60 million contract. But it doesn’t surprise me because it’s all about leading. And he went to the right places, played for the right coaches and played the right way.”
Porter Jr. said he’s enjoyed being coached by his father and hasn’t backed down from the expectations Missouri fans have on him because he’s used to winning and knows the fanbase has had little to cheer for the last three years.
Like Carroll, Porter Jr. said his father can coach him differently than other players, which can bring out the best in him. While some parents try to separate coaching from parenting, Porter Jr. said the combination of the two is what works best.
“You can separate it but at the same time he’s still my dad on the floor,” he said. “He can pull me to the side and tell me things that he wouldn’t really tell other players because he’s my dad. I can’t think of a better situation.”