Georgetown vs. U-Conn.: Otto Porter Jr. no longer under the radar for Hoyas
By Kent Babb,
Otto Porter Jr. stood on the court Tuesday at McDonough Arena, talking as if nothing had changed. His game hasn’t, he said, and his approach is the same.
Now, though, the attention he once craved has found him, and with Porter in the Georgetown lineup, few things seem impossible. Nine consecutive victories. A thrashing of Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. A sophomore whose remarkable rise to national prominence has been swift.
“Everything was happening for us,” Porter said Tuesday, three days after becoming college basketball’s newest superstar with a 33-point, five-steal performance against the Orange.
Eyes are on Porter, and this seems unlikely to change. Seventh-ranked Georgetown is one of the nation’s hottest teams, and neither the Hoyas nor Porter will be overlooked as the season winds down. Certainly not by Connecticut, which will host Georgetown on Wednesday night.
This is the downside to becoming famous: that Porter will be firmly in the Huskies’ – and every other team’s – crosshairs. No matter, he said, because he’ll continue playing the same as always.
Porter’s father, Otto Porter Sr., said his elder son’s skills truly haven’t changed; instead, they’ve been sharpened and put on more prominent display. His nearly 51 percent shooting percentage is down slightly from last season, but because he’s shooting more frequently, his scoring has turned Porter into one of the conference’s most dangerous players.
“I’ve always told him,” the player’s father said Tuesday in a telephone interview, “that the one thing you don’t understand now – and this has been the same thing I’ve been telling him all along – you don’t have no idea what you’re capable of.”
For years, Porter has worked on fundamentals and avoided flash. In high school, he skipped the AAU circuit, choosing instead to play pickup games against his father and uncles, and even now, Porter said those contests were “probably the toughest competition I’ve played against in my life.”
His dad, a former high school star in Missouri, taught his son that the best players work on rebounding first, then concern themselves with scoring. Both have been on display this season: Porter’s average of 5.75 defensive rebounds this season is almost as impressive as his conference-leading 45.3 shooting percentage from three-point range.
Years ago, his small-town upbringing and avoidance of AAU leagues made Porter wonder if anyone was paying attention. He had size and skill, so why wasn’t he a bigger-name recruit?
Patience, his father told him; the hardworking ones are always discovered.
Several schools found him, and Porter satisfied a goal of leaving home by signing with Georgetown. He started only eight games as a freshman, and he made only 22.6 percent of his three-point attempts.
Last summer, he attended a camp to work on his long-range shooting, returning to campus as one of the Hoyas’ most skilled and indispensible players. He played all 40 minutes in Saturday’s 57-46 win at Syracuse, making five three-pointers and scoring all but 14 of the Hoyas’ points.
“All the attention that he’s getting,” Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said, “he wants to win. Those steals were just as important. He does that every day, regardless of who the opponent is. As far as staying grounded and not getting caught up in himself, he’s not built like that.”
With the spotlight now firmly on Porter, another question has emerged: Will this be his final season at Georgetown? His stock is rising in NBA conversations, and although the fun of mock drafts is in the constant fluctuation, Porter this week is seen as a likely top 10 pick.
“We’ll just have to see after the season,” he said Tuesday.
Thompson said he and Porter have discussed turning pro, but for now those conversations have been brief. Other discussions will have to wait.
“We pretty much know where he’s headed,” Otto Porter Sr. said, though he wouldn’t clarify what he meant by that.
The elder Porter said he and his son would talk about the NBA after Georgetown’s season, and after that discussion, Otto Jr. would decide on his next move.
“His focus,” Otto Sr. said, “is on trying to get to the tournament at the end of the year. That’s the right-now, ultimate goal.”
That and keeping this winning streak alive. During the holidays, Porter returned to his home town of Sikeston, Mo.,, playing his father and 14-year-old brother Jeffrey in H.O.R.S.E., a game Otto Jr. lost to his dad. The Georgetown star told Otto Sr. that he let his old man win, but his father said he knows better.
“He’s been groomed,” Otto Sr. said, “not to get beat.”
This much, Porter’s dad said, will never change.