Conditions for Missouri basketball are ripe for a perfect storm. The situation is building toward a cleansing downpour upon a program that thirsted for an NCAA Tournament berth the past four seasons.
The Tigers appear ready to unleash a nourishing rain later this year, with top addition Michael Porter Jr. as their largest clap of thunder.
Jontay Porter, Michael’s younger brother and a 4-star power forward for the 2018 recruiting class, should want to create his own noise as soon as possible after announcing his commitment to the Tigers on Monday. He should reclassify to join his brother in trying to make Missouri’s 2017-18 season special.
“The time is now to kind of go there in a great class,” said Corey Evans, national basketball analyst for Rivals.com. “So I do think he ends up reclassifying.”
The Porter duo will be dynamite, if Jontay does the smart thing and plays for the Tigers in the coming season. The brothers will create fireworks and place the rest of the SEC on notice. (You, too, Big Blue Nation.)
There are so many upsides to that choice that the decision should be a no-brainer for the younger Porter. Jontay would find comfort in playing with Michael. Jontay’s national image would be enhanced if he thrived with his older brother. Plus, Jontay’s NBA draft stock would receive a healthy bump if he became a star.
And oh yeah, Mizzou would rack up a few victories with Jontay and Michael on the court together.
Imagine the possibilities, Tigers fans. Admit it, all this good news has a weird-but-welcomed vibe for a fan base scarred by Tyus Edney’s soul-stomping miracle, Norfolk State’s liver-blitzing upset and Frank Haith’s brain-scrambling failures. All this is surreal.
What’s next in Columbia?
Michael Jordan entering a time machine and announcing his commitment to Missouri? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doing the same and popping out with Truman the Tiger’s head on the other side?
Is it too late to make a run at LeBron James Jr. and introduce him to the power of a Booches burger? Can a connection begin with Steph Curry in case he has a son one day?
Watching new Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin work has been like witnessing someone level a vacant pawn shop so swanky high-rise condos can be built. Martin’s wrecking ball packed a mean punch to a forgettable past. A new foundation has been laid.
It’s about time.
Anything seems possible during this fresh era at Mizzou. Martin hasn’t paced his bench in a black-and-gold tie, but he has claimed a significant victory this offseason: He provided hope where heartache reigned for too long. He has given Missouri fans from Sikeston to St. Joseph reason to let their hearts flutter after Kim Anderson went 27-68 in three sorry seasons.
Jontay’s commitment represents more offseason wonder.
Now it’s on the young Porter to make the obvious choice and start his college career sooner rather than later.
Think a team featuring both Porter brothers and 4-star center Jeremiah Tilmon would spend March Madness near a couch and television? Think another eight- or nine-win season would happen?
“It’s one the reasons why he’s going to re-class is just because he wants to play on the highest level with those guys around him,” Evans said. “If he wouldn’t, in 2018 Michael’s gone. Jeremiah could be gone. So what makes Jontay so good is that he’s a very, very skilled, aware, play-making forward. So he can pass the ball really well. He’s probably a better passer than Michael. So he’s someone that can really play multiple spots and really coexist with those other guys and be a scorer if he has to and be a playmaker if he has to. He’s a really good rebounder of the basketball. So I think they all three mesh together as a 3-4-5 combo.”
So much is there for the taking next season. Unlike in college football, a few elite players can change a college basketball program’s direction in a year’s time. The pieces are aligning for Missouri to storm onto the national stage.
It’s possible for the Tigers, if Jontay joins Michael next season, to dream about a Sweet 16 berth and more. Elite Eight? Final Four? Why say no?
If South Carolina can do it, why not Missouri?
Mizzou should become ambitious. A time will come when the spring’s offseason buzz will give way to the realities of producing in the winter and beyond. Martin will face pressure to make the most of the tantalizing tools at his disposal. For someone who has reached the NCAA Tournament twice in nine seasons as a Division I coach, there are significant questions about his ability. It’s no guarantee that Martin will make the most of the opportunity before him.
The Tigers will be strong next season no matter whether Jontay chooses to reclassify. But he would be smart to place himself in the best situation possible. Playing with Michael would help shape the younger Porter’s maturity on and off the court. Plus, here’s guessing Martin would view two Porters at his fingertips as better than one.
“This is kind of like a unique situation, because we have never seen a team that was that bad, like we’re talking about the worst team in maybe the worst power conference,” Evans said. “Now it’s going to be a potential top-20 program entering the fall. I think they’re a capable 5-, 6-seed in the [NCAA] Tournament. I think the first few weeks of the season are going to be difficult until they get so many different pieces together at one time. But talent-wise, on paper, they have a really solid top eight. Now it’s all about Cuonzo Martin and his staff’s coaching ability to make those guys mesh.”
Jontay’s commitment Monday served as more significant movement forward for Mizzou in this new chapter for the program.
But it’s up to Jontay Porter to make a choice that seems right in so many ways.