Even Cuonzo Martin is buying into the hype surrounding his Missouri basketball program. The Tigers burst into the national spotlight when SF Michael Porter Jr., the nation’s No. 1 high school player, committed to them in March.
Porter Jr. and PF Jeremiah Tilmon are the biggest reasons why Martin has the seventh-ranked 2017 recruiting class in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
And during a Friday stop in St. Louis as part of the Mizzou Caravan, Martin didn’t exactly do anything to calm the excitement and expectations for the upcoming season. In fact, when describing Porter Jr., he may have done the opposite.
“He reminds me of a combination of — when they were at the high school stage — of Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett,” Martin said, according to Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Garnett is revered as a great shot blocker and great defender in the NBA, but he was a guy who could score at a high level in high school. He had a tremendous amount of energy and passion to his game. He got a lot of fans in the seats, just because of his passion. Michael Porter Jr. has the same thing. He has that ability to help people embrace him. When you are able to do that, you have a chance to write your own ticket.”
However, Martin did step back into the more even-keeled coach’s voice and perspective, emphasizing that once practices start, nothing from high school or recruiting websites matters.
“It doesn’t mean wins because you read a press clipping, because you are ranked a certain number,” Martin said. “You still have to play hard. You have to compete. It matters.”