On Monday afternoon, Michael Porter Jr. made official what we had all come to assume: he’s going pro.
And just in case there was any doubt, he announced on Thursday that he was signing with Priority Sports.
Porter’s Mizzou career ends with just 53 total minutes played and 30 points scored. He left the first game of the season with a back injury that ended up requiring surgery, and he returned for the final two games of the year, both losses.
Despite Porter’s return, Missouri’s season ended with first-game losses in both the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. The Tigers’ depth chart had been whittled to nothing, and he was not yet in full game shape. He shot just 9-for-29 from the field and couldn’t make up for Missouri’s increasing deficiencies. “I don’t feel like I helped the team,” he told reporters after the NCAA Tournament loss to Florida State, and rumor had it that he was privately considering returning to Mizzou next season to potentially build the legacy he thought he would have a chance to build in 2017-18.
After a few days of consideration, however, he made what was from a business perspective the smarter, less risky decision, announcing he was going pro pretty quickly so he could get going with pro prep.
Back in November, our Sam Snelling wrote the piece that I think will continue to define Porter’s legacy at Mizzou: it obviously wasn’t one of on-court success, but it was one of a catalyst. After nearly half a decade in the wilderness, Missouri suddenly mattered again in 2017-18, and it wouldn’t happened that quickly if not for the impact — both in ticket sales and further recruiting — that Porter’s commitment made.
Mizzou fans will always be grateful to Porter because he chose us. And in choosing us, he brought his brother and a young exciting point guard in Blake Harris. He talked friend Jeremiah Tilmon into crossing state lines to play for the Tigers and his own hometown hero in Martin.
Mizzou was able to assemble its best recruiting class ever because of him, and that excitement carried over and helped seal the deal on Mizzou’s best 2018 signee, Torrence Watson. The energy for Mizzou basketball was kickstarted thanks to him.
Without belaboring the point — because you likely already get it — the one-year turnaround has been astronomical. There are a lot of factors at play: Cuonzo Martin, better recruiting, Kassius Robertson, development from holdover talent, etc.
No, Michael Porter Jr. wasn’t the only reason this happened, but you’re fooling yourself if you think he wasn’t one of the big reasons. When else would top-10 recruits be taking official visits to Columbia, and when else would Missouri have top-20 odds to win the national championship? That only comes with the presence of a once-in-a-generation talent.
We don’t have nearly as much control over our legacy as we’d like, but Michael Porter Jr. served as a catalyst for a program that so desperately needed one. That’ll do.