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Jontay Porter withdraws from the 2018 NBA draft and will return to Missouri

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The sophomore-to-be will be back in black and gold this winter.

NCAA Basketball: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cuonzo Martin and the Missouri basketball program received good news today and announced that Jontay Porter is returning to school and withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Mizzou Men’s Basketball’s Jontay Porter has announced that he will return to Mizzou for his sophomore season, he made the decision before Wednesday’s deadline. After testing the waters without hiring an agent, Porter has withdrawn his name from the NBA Draft.

”We are excited that Jontay will return,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He had a great experience going through the pre-Draft process, got the feedback that he needed to do what is best for him and he will learn from it to improve in all areas of his game. Jontay has the potential to make a big jump from his freshman season and he’ll be a great leader for us on and off the court next year.”

In his debut season, Porter averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 blocked shots per game during Southeastern Conference play. He earned SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year honors and SEC All-Freshman Team recognition after a stellar campaign. Porter became just the third Tiger in program history receive a conference Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Later in the afternoon, Porter himself confirmed the news on his Instagram account.

The text:

Excited to announce I will be returning to University of Missouri for my sophomore year. I can’t wait to get back to work with my brothers! #MIZ #BetterAt70

For the longest time it appeared — and multiple sources indicated — that Missouri was preparing for a season without Porter next year, that the odds of him remaining in the draft, even without a first-round guarantee, were both high and logical. Martin’s pursuit of larger players in the spring even appeared to broadcast some of the needs he thought his team might have.

Regardless, through a few twists and turns, Porter will don black and gold again next winter.

Porter, the younger brother of top 2018 recruit and fellow Mizzou signee Michael Jr., ended up featured a lot more than expected during the 2017-18 season. Michael Jr.’s early-season injury created a need for more contributions from what was expected to be the supporting cast. And while inconsistent in the way that most freshmen tend to be, Jontay delivered at times.

He averaged 24.5 minutes and 9.9 points per game, shooting 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range. He also contributed 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game and served as a talisman of sorts: when he delivered, Mizzou usually won. The Tigers were 15-2 when he scored in double digits and 5-11 when he didn’t.

Mizzou Basketball Scholarship Count 5-30-18

It’s likely that Missouri’s reliance on Porter will continue in 2018-19. With the loss of guard Kassius Robertson and wing Jordan Barnett, Jontay will be Mizzou’s leading returning scorer this fall. He will become the centerpiece of Missouri’s supposedly positionless approach. With the frontcourt depth basically all returning from Missouri’s NCAA tournament team last season, the questions about the backcourt will become even more prevalent as the SEC seems to be getting deeper by the day.

Until about a week ago, it appeared a foregone conclusion that there would be no Porters on the roster next season. But the feedback Jontay appeared to receive in and around the NBA Combine — likely centering around a need to get stronger and more agile — led to a late-game plot twist.

Porter excelled in shooting drills and during the interview process but struggled in a few key areas in which a full calendar year with Nicodemus Christopher will do wonders. And now Missouri fans will get to watch the enigmatic, incredibly exciting No. 11 in a Tiger jersey for another year. It’s a good day.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Missouri
Jontay Porter (11)
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports