When rumors began to circulate last year that the Porter family was looking to move back to Columbia, the immediate question on everyone’s mind was, “What does this mean for Michael Porter Jr.?” It’s almost as if people temporarily forgot that there were two five-star recruits in the Porter family.
Jontay’s recruitment never carried the drama or the flair of his older brother’s. Obviously, part of that had to do with the fact Jontay was long considered a 2018 prospect. But his recruitment was always accompanied by a quiet meekness, even before Missouri got back in the picture. Maybe it was because he was viewed as a lock to whichever school his father was at; maybe it was because he didn’t have the same appetite for celebrity as his brother. Whatever the case, Jontay’s May commitment seemed to fly a little under the radar with Missouri fans, really picking up steam during the, “will he/won’t he,” reclassification drama of the AAU season.
Because of the promise of Michael’s generational talents, Jontay was viewed as more of a role player heading into his freshman year. Little did everyone know at the time, he would soon become the most important Porter in the men’s basketball program.
#11 Jontay Porter
6'11" 240 lbs
Jontay started his freshman year on a somewhat inconsistent note, always flashing potential without leaving a tangible mark on Missouri’s games. But as the year continued, the development in his game became more and more evident, culminating in a memorable late season run that earned him Co-Sixth Man of the Year honors in the SEC. Without his versatility, Missouri likely doesn’t make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 5 years.
In the absence of his brother, Jontay morphed into (likely) Missouri’s best all-around player. Which part of his game impressed you the most?
Sam Snelling: Basically everything except his shooting. He was a bit soft around the basket on offense, but his defense and rebounding far exceeded my expectations. I’m sure there will be mentions of his passing, and Jontay’s ability to get the ball where it needs to be will be something sorely missed next year. There aren’t many bigs who can do post-entry like Jontay Porter, and his threat as a shooter drew out opposing big men away from the basket created more driving lanes from a team virtually devoid of attacking guards. So even without naturally gifted attackers off the dribble, Mizzou was able to get to the basket. As good as Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett were all season for the Tigers, you could make a serious case for Jontay Porter as the team’s MVP.
If you think about the season’s biggest wins, Jontay was the team MVP in most of them: home against Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee; South Carolina, Vandy, and Ole Miss on the road. Six of the games where Mizzou secured it’s NCAA bid, Jontay Porter was the MVP of the game. In the home win against Georgia, Jontay’s defense against Yante Maten was so key. This season went down the way it did because Jontay Porter was ready for it.
Matt Harris: Passing, which is really a short-hand way of talking about Jontay’s preternatural feel for the game. You could stymie him with hard-doubles and a delayed dig from the wing, but most nights, the freshman showcased the kind of vision and decision-making you expect from veteran wings. His passouts to opposite-side wings like Jordan Barnett will get a ton of mention, but by the end of the year, he was dropping passes to guards back-cutting from the top of the key and finding a Jeremiah Tilmon or Kevin Puryear on big-to-big passes when opponents sent help. Missouri even tweaked portions of an Invert series to have Jontay feeding Tilmon from the wing.
With attrition at point guard, Missouri had to shelve portions of the playbook that relied on dribble handoffs. On top of that, Michael Porter’s back injury eliminated chances to use a chapter that relied on AI cuts, an action that would get Porter moving side-to-side, warp a defensive shell and let him attack with the ball in his hands. Put simply, MU didn’t have the personnel to deploy parts of its offense that hinge on a savvy lead guard or an attacking wing. Jontay’s vision and IQ helped lift and move defenses, and also gave the Tigers a passer who could punish teams when the floor was spaced properly. Missouri averaged 1.036 points per possession on his passes from the block, while his 21.2 assist rate in SEC play ranked 16th in the conference. When you look at his assist rate and turnover percentage, it’s in the same range as a freshman point guard.
Tashan Reed: Jontay Porter didn’t post gaudy averages in his freshman year at Mizzou, but he was the team’s most important player. Every game he seemed to wow you with his rim protection, passing, or rebounding, but he was terrifying when his shot was falling. No statistic is more telling than the Tigers’ record whenever he cracked double digits. Porter scored 10 or more points in 17 games, and Missouri was 15-2 in those contests. 15-2! His ability to be such a determinant factor in the team winning games definitely impressed me the most.
Jontay’s best game was against Vanderbilt, hands down. He scored a season-high 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting to go along with seven boards and six assists. He even threw in a block and a steal for good measure. With his size and shooting touch, Jontay’s offensive potential is through the roof. At times he still feels like a guard stuck in a big man’s body, though, and looks uncomfortable in the post. He needs to work on his positioning, using his body, and expanding his arsenal of post moves. I think another year in Columbia would serve him well in doing so.
Josh Matejka: We spent a lot of time toward the beginning of the season talking about all the ways Jontay affected the game that didn’t show up on the stat sheet: his defense, his passing, his ability to get the offense flowing. But what impressed me as the year went on was his improved consistency in leaving an undeniable mark on every game. As Sam pointed out, Jontay was the MVP in the team’s biggest games (and biggest stretch) of the year. Starting with the road win against Alabama, Jontay scored in double digits in 9 of the final 12 games, upping all of his per game numbers, and putting up a .434 three point percentage. It’s a hot streak that saved Missouri’s season, especially with wins against Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
And really, that improved consistency gets to the heart of what impressed me the most: his maturity. I don’t need to remind any readers here, but I will anyway for posterity: he was only 17 years old when the season started. Good god, can you imagine what he would have been doing to the poor chumps of Missouri high school basketball?
A significant portion of the fan base expected Jontay’s star turn to come next year when his older brother jumped to the NBA. Missouri ultimately needed him to expedite that growth process, and he didn’t fail. It may have cost the Missouri program an extra year of his services, but I don’t think anyone is complaining at this point.
Chris Bohkay: What impressed me most was his ability to shoot the ball from long distance. We’ve seen guys of his size that can shoot, and the NBA is rife with bigger forward type guys who can shoot as well, so I imagine we’ll see some more on Mizzou’s roster in the future. But for such an unknown commodity, this is what stood out most to me.
Coming into the season, knowing Jontay had reclassified (which we were reminded of on a game by game basis by the announcers) I don’t think we knew exactly how he would react at this level. With Bagley at Duke, you knew he’d be able to play at the college level just based on his size. With Jontay I don’t think we thought he’d be as successful, to the point of being Mizzou’s best all around player. He also acquitted himself well on the boards, all while staying out of foul trouble for the most part - probably due in part to the fact that he would hang around the three point line and the top of the key as opposed to banging down low. Really, I loved his game and would have loved to see how he and his brother would have worked together on the floor in a full and healthy season.
I wish him well in the NBA, where he should have a bright future as his game features well in the current iteration of the pro game. Thanks for the season Jontay, you were Mizzou’s most pleasant surprise.
Catch up on the rest of our postseason player analysis pieces: