That’s what Georgetown Coach John Thompson III appears to have in Otto Porter Jr., a do-it-all forward who dazzled off the bench as a freshman and returns for his sophomore year amid far greater fanfare and expectations.
It’s easy to assume that Georgetown will take a step backward this season given the loss of seniors Jason Clark and Henry Sims and junior Hollis Thompson, who supplied the bulk of the team’s scoring and leadership en route to a 24-9 record (12-6 in the Big East) and an appearance in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The promise of Porter, now a more muscular 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward and preseason all-Big East first-team selection, argues the other way.
“He’s was so good last year, but he has improved in every area of his game,” said forward Nate Lubick, one of two starting juniors on a squad without seniors. “That’s pretty important for us as a team, because he’s going to be somebody who’s going to put the basketball in the hoop a lot.”
Moreover, the soft-spoken Porter, who was reared in a small, close-knit town of roughly 720 in southeastern Missouri, is asserting himself more as a leader on court, which can only help a team that adds five freshmen this season.
Said Thompson: “He works as hard as anyone. He cares more than most. He’s a terrific teammate. . . . As a coach, you like it when you can say: ‘See that guy right there? Go about your business like him. Work and care as much as him.’ And everything else will fall in place.”
Work ethic and “want-to” run deep in Porter, who, like his father, mother and uncles, was a standout basketball player at Scott County Central High in Sikeston, Mo., a school he led to three consecutive state championships. With roughly 120 students, the Eagles compete in the smallest classification in Missouri. That didn’t exactly pit Porter against the most formidable players, but he got all the big-man basketball schooling he needed on Sunday afternoons in his grandmother’s yard, where he measured himself against his 6-5 father and 6-3 and 6-2 uncles as a youngster on a court the family built.
“Most of the competition came from my family,” said Porter, who skipped the AAU circuit to hone his skills and feel for the game under his father’s tutelage. “Whenever I played my senior year against a nationally ranked team, it was nothing. I was used to playing that way because I always played against my father and uncles. They had quite a few pounds on me. It was kind of tough.”
Porter’s grandmother officiated. “She tried to keep it under control: No fighting or anything like that,” Porter recalls. “They were very competitive games!”
He never saw footage of his father in his prime. None was filmed, although Otto Porter Sr. held the school record for rebounds that his son later broke, grabbing 35 boards in a state championship game. But he says he inherited his approach to the game.