Jontay Porter’s return to Missouri brought cheers from the basketball offices at Mizzou Arena and for good reason.
The 6-foot-11 rising sophomore's decision has big implications in a number of ways for the program’s immediate and long-term future. Here a few ways Porter's choice affects the program:
No rebuild in Year 2: The return of Porter means that Cuonzo Martin will have no rebuilding year in his first three seasons as Missouri’s coach, which is a bit remarkable given what he inherited. If Porter elected to stay in the NBA Draft, his departure would have likely made the 2018-19 season a rebuilding one while transfers Dru Smith (Evansville) and Mark Smith (Illinois) sat out.
Instead, Porter will lead a young team that should have enough talent to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid. Missouri still has a lot of unproven commodities in freshman Torrence Watson, junior college transfer K.J. Santos and incoming point guard Xavier Pinson, but Porter’s return lowers the burden for all three.
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NBA exposure: Porter was a projected late first-round pick in June’s draft but was being projected as going as high as No. 5 overall in early 2019 mock drafts before electing to test this year's draft waters. Mizzou Arena will have plenty of credentialed NBA scouts and executives to watch Porter next season, which should benefit the likes of Jeremiah Tilmon, Santos and some of Missouri’s younger players with pro hopes.
Assuming Porter goes in the first round of the 2019 draft, it would mark the first time Missouri had first-round picks in consecutive years since 1991-92, when Doug Smith and Anthony Peeler respectively went in the top 15. Porter’s older brother Michael Jr. is a projected top-10 pick in next month’s draft.
If it holds true, Martin would accomplish something that seemed impossible for a team he inherited that had won 10 games or fewer the past three years.
Recruiting: Missouri has a lot of local talent to court in the 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes and Porter’s return means Martin can pitch prospects on what the team is doing now instead of future seasons. A transition year pitch sounds like, “Here’s what we’ll look like with you next year.”
A pitch with a team actively competing for a tournament bid is more like, “Here’s what we’re doing now. You should come be a part of it.”
Porter is a likely first-team all-SEC candidate next season and could make a run at All-American status. Martin selling recruits on Porter’s player development under him could also turn some heads.
Marketing: Next season Missouri will have the likes of Drew Lock, Sophie Cunningham and Porter as the faces of its three biggest programs. All three are highly-touted in-state recruits. Is there more to be said? That office has to be happy.
The Porter Legacy: Had both Michael and Jontay departed, it’s uncertain how the family would be perceived by the fan base after just one college season in Columbia. Michael Porter Jr. himself recently told The Star that he thinks there will be “mixed feelings” about his own legacy with the program after missing almost the entire season because of back surgery.
Jontay Porter’s return could help cement the family's role in helping turn around Missouri basketball.