Last season, Jontay Porter was a sidekick to Missouri seniors Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett, who powered the Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament in five years while Porter’s older brother Michael Jr. recovered from back surgery.
This season, it’s his show.
“I have ultimate freedom with this team,” he said.
With Michael Porter Jr. now with the Denver Nuggets, the younger brother is the focal point of Missouri’s offense.
After splitting time between starter and sixth man last season, Porter is expected to have a breakout season after spurning the NBA Draft in favor of his sophomore campaign.
Missouri will have the 6-foot-10 Porter and the 6-foot-11 Jeremiah Tilmon on its front line, giving the Tigers a size advantage inside that most teams can’t relate to.
“We got the best bigs in America,” senior point guard Jordan Geist said.
As a freshman, Porter averaged 9.9 points while mainly shooting threes. Porter’s post game varied game-by-game because of match-ups, foul trouble and his continued acclimation to the college game after reclassifying up a grade in August. Now he’s expected to take 15 to 20 shots per game this season.
His late decision to skip his senior season of high school caused him to miss the Tigers’ entire summer session, which is big on muscle development.
Cuonzo Martin said Porter had a decent start to last season, but would have had a better one if he was there for the summer.
Porter said he and Martin had their bouts last season but got to know each other more as the year went on. Looking back, he said he took Martin for granted.
“Last year he was great for me but I got frustrated with him often and he got frustrated with me,” he said. “I think this year our relationship has evolved into respect. I respect him way more.”
While training for the NBA Draft in Chicago in the spring, Porter worked alongside former West Virginia guard Jevon Carter. Martin said the best part of the draft process for Porter was with his mindset, since Carter was an under-recruited player that had to stand out defensively in order to get looks from pro teams.
Offensively, Porter is trying to rely more on his inside game rather than his three-point shooting or mid-range game, because he knows he’ll have to rely on it more in the NBA.
Martin has seen improvement from Porter inside and the credits strength coach Nicodemus Christopher for improving his explosiveness.
“He’s helped prepare for the workload they’ll be playing at all year,” Porter said. “I’m much more confident going into the season that I’ll be able to dominate both inside and out.”
Missouri is still over a month away from its first game against Central Arkansas on Nov. 6, but Porter is optimistic about a team that features a lot of unknowns in players like K.J. Santos, Javon Pickett and Mitchell Smith, who are all a year removed from their last basketball game.
At minimum, he has faith in the frontcourt with his refined game and Tilmon’s, who is expected to stretch the floor more after adding range to his jump shot.
“You don’t get too many teams with two (6-foot-10) dudes that are capable of doing a lot of things on both sides of the floor,” he said. “I think it will kind of be a nightmare for other teams.”