Michael Porter Jr. despondent after loss to Florida State in NCAA Tournament
Michael Porter Jr., the player who was supposed to take Missouri basketball to new heights, is declaring for the NBA Draft.
Missouri’s freshman phenom announced in an Instagram post Monday, two days and one year after he committed to play for the Tigers, that he will forgo his final three years of college eligibility.
"I want to thank Mizzou Nation, my coaches and my teammates for the incredible support," Porter said. "I wish I could have been on the court with my brother every single night, but I'm so thankful to have been a part of such a special group."
Porter leaves behind an interesting legacy at Missouri. While he only played 53 minutes and scored 30 points, he still was a reason why Missouri made its first NCAA Tournament in five years.
His commitment helped the Tigers bring in graduate transfer Kassius Robertson, who was a first team all-SEC player, and freshmen Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter, his younger brother, who formed the nucleus of a Missouri team that finished 20-13 overall and tied for fourth at 10-8 in the Southeastern Conference.
Entering this season, Porter Jr. was projected as the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft but his stock fell after he underwent back surgery in November. The 6-foot-10 forward returned for Missouri’s two postseason games, both losses, but showed flashes of his old self despite playing around 70 percent his capacity.
He’s still a projected top-10 pick and can potentially get back into the top five with a strong display at team-held workouts. DraftExpress has Porter Jr. projected to go No. 7 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Impossible to say what he needs to work on because we have yet to see him healthy really," one NBA scout told The Star. "I think we just want to see the product when he is in shape and at 100 percent."
Scouts are not allowed to publicly comment on the prospects they evaluate.
Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said after the Tigers' first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Florida State that the higher the pick Porter Jr. could be, the harder it would be for him to stay in college.
"You’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family," Martin said. "It would be hard to turn that down if that’s the case. It would be extremely hard to turn that down. My job as a coach and a father and a leader is to put him in the best position possible to be successful and support himself and his family."
In his three-game career at Missouri, Michael Porter Jr. averaged 10 points and 6.7 rebounds. With his departure, Missouri has two open scholarships for the 2018 class.
The focus now shifts to 6-11 forward Jontay, who has become an NBA prospect in his own right after a stellar freshman season in which he averaged 9.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while taking on a bigger role in his brother's absence. The 2019 NBA Draft is expected to be weaker than June's, which means Jontay Porter could be a higher pick should he return to Mizzou.
Missouri's 2018-19 season will depend on Porter's decision, with his return putting the Tigers back in the NCAA Tournament picture and giving the Tigers another offensive weapon to put alongside center Jeremiah Tilmon. That would take pressure off incoming wing Torrence Watson and forward K.J. Santos to carry the offense.
Porter's departure would force Santos, Watson and would-be senior Kevin Puryear to replace the offense left by the Porters, Robertson and Jordan Barnett.
The Tigers have been linked to a number of graduate transfers since the season ended and remain firmly in the mix for St. Louis point guard Courtney Ramey, a consensus top-50 recruit. Should Missouri land Ramey, a transfer who could make an impact like Robertson, and retain Jontay Porter, next season could be another year that ends in the Big Dance.
Also, it remains to be seen if Michael Porter Sr., an assistant coach on Martin's staff, will stay in his current role if both sons turn pro.