Saying he felt ready for the next step, Georgetown sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. announced Monday that he’ll pass up his remaining college eligibility in order to enter the June 27 NBA draft.
“It was a tough decision. I love Georgetown, I love my coaches, my teammates,” said Porter, who this past season led the Hoyas to a No. 5 national ranking, 25-7 record and No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. “It’s something me and my family talked about. They think I’m ready. I feel I’m ready to make this next step. And we’re going to go from there.”
Porter was a key reason why Georgetown exceeded expectations so dramatically this season, leading the Hoyas with 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as well as contributing on offense and defense in myriad ways that aren’t easily quantified. He was named a first-team all-American and was Big East player of the yearas a result.
On Monday, Porter and Coach John Thompson III sat side-by-side for a news conference at McDonough Arena, speaking with distinct voices but one mind about Porter’s readiness for the NBA and his commitment to one day finishing his Georgetown degree.
“He had two good choices,” Thompson said, recounting his words to Porter as he weighed his options. “You can come back to school, which is a very good choice. Or he could enter the NBA, which is also a very good choice. I told him, ‘You don’t have a bad choice here.’ ”
Asked about the Hoyas’ prospects next season, Thompson confirmed that he expected 6-foot-8 forward Greg Whittington, who was ruled academically ineligible for the spring semester this past season, to compete, as well as Josh Smith, a 6-10 transfer from UCLA.
Thompson said he hadn’t been caught off guard by Porter’s decision, having assumed that this would be his last year in college. To that end, the coach reached out to scouts and front-office staff from nearly every NBA team to get an honest gauge of Porter’s stock in their eyes. What he heard, Thompson said, reflected what Georgetown’s coaches and fans have seen these last two years.
“You have someone who, even at the next level, can play multiple positions — offensive and defensive,” Thompson said of Porter. “His versatility, coupled with his work ethic, is something that’s valued.”
NBA scouts confirmed that analysis in recent telephone interviews, describing him as a well-rounded player with a high basketball IQ, a lack of selfishness and the ability to fit seamlessly into many systems. Given that, he’s regarded as a certain lottery pick with the possibility of being chosen among the top five in the draft.
Porter declined to voice a preference about what team he’d like to play for, saying simply that he felt he could contribute anywhere.
Among those attending Porter’s announcement were Hall of Fame Coach John Thompson Jr., Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed and Hoyas teammates Jabril Trawick and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
While Porter is making a leap countless youngsters dream of, his path was more old-school than most. Reared in a close-knit town of 72 in southeastern Missouri, he didn’t play on the AAU circuit but honed his skills in fiercely competitive games with his father and uncles. He wasn’t extensively recruited and chose Georgetown over Missouri after his recruiting visit to the Hilltop, which marked the first time he had flown on a plane. But he made a huge impact on the Hoyas, particularly his sophomore season, as the national honors piled up.
Porter kept a level head throughout, deferring his NBA decision until the current season ended with Georgetown’s first-round NCAA tournament loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
“The toughest part was knowing you’re going to leave a great place like this,” Porter said. “I love this place. I had to think about it each and every night — whether to stay or go.”