As the Irish might say, Michael Porter Jr. we hardly knew ye.
Two minutes of basketball … and then gone. By now you surely know about the bad news that’s drifting out of CoMo like a dark, ominous cloud.
Mizzou’s super comet, Michael Porter Jr. is just like all comets now … a fallen star. It’s a back injury. It’s surgery to repair spinal discs. It’s a recovery time of three or four months. We have probably seen the last of Porter this season. We’ve likely seen the last of Porter Jr. in a Tiger uniform.
I mean, we’ve all heard of “one and dones” but this is ridiculous…
Porter appeared in one game…ONE GAME! … and he’s done?
To be precise, he played 1 minutes and 37 seconds.
That’s it. Over.
We thought we’d at least get to watch Porter through a one-and-done season, before he zoomed off to land at the top of the 2018 NBA draft.
Maybe the basketball gods messed up the signal. Maybe they heard “one game” when we asked them for one magical season … a wonderful season to remember for Mizzou basketball … instead of another miserable season to forget.
Distraught Mizzou fans are cursing their curse … the Mizzou curse.
And I’m cussing along with them.
There is no curse, of course … other than the four-letter expletives.
The Mizzou curse doesn’t exist, except for in our minds.
This notorious Mizzou curse would include Tony Van Zandt’s knee, DGB’s dysfunction, Tyus Edney’s killer drive, JC Louderback, Colorado’s 5th Down, the Nebraska flea flicker featuring Matt Davison’s absurd rabbit-foot catch … the curse would include Maurice Newby at the buzzer … the wicked karma of the North End Zone … the George Shorthose dropped pass … a terrible call by basketball ref Hank Nichols … it would include losing a special running back to the Jehova Witnesses, and losing one of the best offensive tackle recruits in the nation to a rock and roll band.
This is a tough break for Mizzou’s team, a tough break for Mizzou fans.
But let’s not forget that Porter is the guy who needed to have back surgery.
Our pain is emotional. His discomfort is physical. And let’s just hope that young Porter will get through this and have a complete physical restoration to keep his hoop dreams intact.
I am going to make a futile attempt to put a fresh coat of paint on this damaged MU season…
First of all, even if Porter never plays another second for Mizzou, he played a substantial role in raising a cadaverous program. His presence reanimated Mizzou. His presence made coach Cuonzo Martin the most popular man in the state.
Porter’s charismatic presence attracted other coveted recruits, and they’re still there. Porter’s magnetic presence drew the national media, and even the state media, back to Mizzou arena to trumpet the revitalization of Missouri basketball. And that arena had been the world’s largest tomb until Porter appeared at the a door to announce he was coming home.
Porter may be down.
Mizzou’s faithful are down.
But the Mizzou program is back up and running again.
Porter may be missing, but his exceptionally skilled kid brother, Jontay, is still there … and Jeremiah Tilmon is still there … and Blake Harris is still there, and Kassius Robertson is still there… the rest of the gang is still there, and they will carry on. Porter Jr.’s teammates must step it up, and take ownership of this team. And they are capable of doing it.
Though Porter Jr. is a transcendent talent, it’s plenty of good talent remains on the roster.
Coach Martin will push this team forward in a positive direction … losing Porter Jr. doesn’t mean Mizzou has collapsed or made a scary return to three seasons of 27 and 68 basketball under coach Kim Anderson.
This isn’t about one season. This isn’t about a 97-second glimpse of Porter Jr. wearing the school colors, and playing basketball for Mizzou. This is about building a program, one that will endure and last and give us many happy days and nights of MU triumphs.
Porter Jr. was going to play for Mizzou for one season, and then he’d go to the NBA.
We knew that.
We won’t have that now.
That one season would have been a lot of fun. Packed with entertainment as Porter showcased his dazzling variety of skills. Obviously having Porter Jr. in the lineup for every game would make the Tigers better, deeper, and more dangerous. Having Porter would mean more wins. Having Porter would have enhanced Mizzou’s chances of climbing higher in the SEC standings, and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
Three things about that.
(1) Even without Porter Jr. Mizzou still can achieve its goals. The challenge is more difficult now, but Mizzou can improve, play well, and have its best season since 2013-2014.
(2) Nothing was guaranteed by having Porter for an entire season. Let’s look at a couple of Pac-12 teams, Cal and Washington. In his final two seasons at Cal-Berkley, Cuonzo Martin had six players drafted into the NBA including Jaylen Brown, the No. 3 overall pick in 2016. Though the Bears won 23 games in 2015-2016 to make the NCAA Tournament, they got eliminated in the first round. Martin had two players (Jabari Bird, Ivan Rabb) picked in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft, but the Bears (21-13) failed to make the NCAA Tournament with Bird and Rabb in the lineup. During his final six seasons at Washington, Lorenzo Romar had six players drafted in the first round by NBA teams — including three chosen among the top eight overall. That includes Markelle Faultz, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Despite coaching six first-round draft choices, Romar didn’t get his team into the NCAA Tournament — not once — in his final six seasons. And with Fultz about to become the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Romar went 9-22 last season. (And was fired.)
(3) One spectacular season from Porter wouldn’t have established Mizzou as a true, consistently successful program. I’m thinking of Larry Bird and Indiana State. I’m going way back. The iconic Bird put a nondescript program on the map. Bird carried Indiana State to a spot in the 1979 national championship game. The Sycamores lost to Magic Johnson and Michigan State, but it didn’t matter. Indiana State was on the way to sustained greatness … or perhaps not. Bird left for the draft and became a Hall of Fame player for the Boston Celtics. Indiana State didn’t qualify for an NCAA Tournament again until 2000.
The program-building requires several seasons and a lot of hard work. It’s a process. A top recruit won’t be around for long. A top recruit such as Porter can elevate the program for a while. A top recruit can give the program-building project a head start. But the key is long-term sustainability. And a top recruit can’t give you that by playing one season.
Porter Jr. may have played only 1 minute 37 seconds for Mizzou, but he made an impact. He energized a tired, failing Mizzou brand. He created excitement. He got people to notice Mizzou basketball. He gave Mizzou the first big, critical victory that the program needed in the worst way.
Michael Porter Jr. made Mizzou basketball relevant again.
Thanks for reading.
And I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.