Over the last week and a half, from the first swirling reports that Cuonzo Martin was about to say yes to Mizzou and Lorenzo Romar was about to be fired from Washington, to the slow trickle of Porter-related social media posts over the last couple of days — Michael Sr.’s, then Bri’s, then, of course, Michael Jr.’s — I would randomly marvel at the timing of everything. It honestly seemed like everything was falling into place for Mizzou Basketball, and at the right time.
That it could all be tied back to a women’s coaching hire from seven years ago made the whole thing all that more interesting and unique.
Robin Pingeton took over the Tigers. She hired her sister’s husband. He’d be the director of basketball operations.
So, Lisa and Michael Porter Sr. moved their family from Indiana to the middle of Missouri. Their oldest son was 11.
Talk about good fortune.
The story of how the Porters came to Columbia ... and how they came back to Columbia ... is one at which Mizzou fans might marvel for a long time to come.
The story is worth marveling at for another reason, of course: This is Mizzou we’re talking about.
You know me by now. I roll my eyes at curses (north end zone and other), and I’ve long since given up on the ‘rolling around in self pity and expecting the worst’ thing. Consider that a perk of a job in which I’ve gotten to know other fan bases and find that everybody thinks their luck is the worst, and everybody thinks they’re curse, and everybody defaults to self pity 90 percent of the time.
But even Mr. Anti-Curse can acknowledge that Missouri’s timing has been hilariously awful when it comes to star basketball recruits.
In seven stable cycles, the state of Missouri has produced two four-star guys, zero in the last four cycles.
In nine unstable cycles, the state has produced 16 four- or five-star products, including Hansbrough, Rush, Beal, O. Porter, Tatum, and M. Porter. If Hansbrough is a 2003 recruit, he quite likely signs with Missouri. If Otto Porter is a member of the 2010 class, he probably does, too. Michael Porter spent a lot of his life in Columbia with family on the roster and coaching staff of the women's team. If Mizzou has itself in order, there's a decent chance that he gives the Tigers a long look, or his dad gives a long look to an assistant coaching position on the men's team. It does not, and they did not.
You're always going to struggle to sustain an on-court product when you have more instability than stability. Obviously. But my goodness, it's taken a lot for Missouri to miss out on all of these guys. And granted, the state has also produced some three-stars who turned out to be awesome (Marcus Denmon, to name one of many) while some of these four-stars didn't live up to hype. But ... still.
This post is high on the MIZERY scale, to be sure. But the intent wasn't to wallow ... it was to marvel. You couldn't pull off timing like this if you tried.
I wrote that last February, when Mizzou was mired in Year 4 of a slow-motion collapse. The odds of the Tigers landing Michael Porter Jr. at that point were minuscule, and that was before Michael Sr. took an assistant coaching job on Romar’s staff.
But after five years of getting everything wrong, Mizzou spent the last week and a half getting every single little detail right.
This hasn’t resulted in a single on-court win, mind you. We know Michael Jr. is an incredible basketball talent, but so was Ben Simmons, and he couldn’t get LSU to the NCAA Tournament in 2016. So is Markelle Fultz, and he couldn’t even get Washington to 10 wins. The hard work has just begun here. But for once, Mizzou fans get to bask in actually getting some breaks. It’s been a while.
Watching Michael Porter Jr. posting about showing recruits love or talking about Mizzou being home has been an out-of-body experience.
"Missouri is home, and I can't wait to be back there with all the people I've grown close to, especially my family," said Porter. "I believe that next year will be something incredibly special, and my goal is to win an NCAA Championship."
Mizzou nation show my guy some love we need him at the ZOU https://t.co/TgbkNOu6q7— Michael Porter Jr. (@TheMPJ1) March 25, 2017
This has been the greatest hard restart you’ll ever see. We don’t know if Cuonzo Martin will live up to the increasingly high expectations some might have of him in Columbia, but in barely a week, he has completely and totally changed the vibe here. That’s enough for now.
Presto, just like that, before Martin has coached a game, everything seemingly has changed in terms of the perception of MU basketball — a vibe you could feel even in the bunker of Sprint Center on Friday evening.
Optimism has bubbled over the apathy and sheer gloom that came with the Tigers going 27-67 overall and 8-46 in Southeastern Conference play over the last three seasons, with home games played before increasingly dwindling “crowds” at Mizzou Arena.
Some, like my friend and basketball expert Earl Austin Jr. in St. Louis, were hailing this as a transformative commitment unseen for MU hoops since Steve Stipanovich committed to Norm Stewart in 1979.
Yesterday, Devin Booker scored 70 points for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. At almost any recent point, that would have triggered a new round of self-pity from Mizzou fans. Mizzou had a legacy in Booker and had not yet collapsed as a basketball program and still couldn’t reel Booker in. That’s the way it has so frequently gone.
As it stood, I’m not even sure Mizzou fans noticed. They had too much to be excited about.