Just like that, it’s goodbye “College Gameday,” hello “Inside the NBA.”
The most prepared freshman John Thompson III ever coached became too polished to stay on the Hilltop more than two years. With a wingspan stretching from F Street to McDonough Gymnasium, Porter’s sinewy 6-foot-8 frame and do-everything game isn’t expected to last past the first five picks in the June draft.
I know what you’re thinking: Why the fuss? Kids leave early all the time now. It’s part of the big-school landscape. No sense getting too attached to anything but a program anymore.
But Porter’s blindingly quick path to the pros is unlike almost anything seen in college basketball in roughly two decades.
The last of his 32 home games comes on a nostalgic Saturday at Verizon Center against rival Syracuse, in the schools’ final Big East regular season meeting before the conference dissolves amid university presidents’ obsession with more dollars.
That’s fitting because everything about Porter’s game takes you back, to a time and place when kids weren’t treated differently because they could ball a little in eighth grade, when winning a high school state championship with kids you grew up with meant more than celebrating a glitzy AAU tournament title with relative strangers in Las Vegas — when the first plane ride a highly coveted teenage basketball star took was actually to the college campus of the coach who wanted him.
Porter’s first time on an airplane was indeed the day he visited Georgetown in April 2010, flying from the hamlet of Sikeston, Mo., in Scott County (pop. 41,143). He never went to an Adidas- or Nike-sponsored camp, never took free shoes and gear — never even wanted it.
“I had my father and my uncles and my teammates back home — that’s all I needed,” Porter said Tuesday after practice on the McDonough court.
What other ballplayer in America is asked whom he patterned his game after and replies, “You mean my favorite player growing up? When I was coming up, it was my father.”
Otto Porter Sr. starred on Scott County Central’s first title team in 1976, and at least one Porter played on the school’s first 11 championship teams.
“He didn’t play AAU and go to all these camps and you can kind of tell that with the way he plays,” said Nate Lubick, the Hoyas’ junior center. “He has kind of like a junkyard game from playing on the playground and with his relatives growing up. He can switch gears really quick. He’s not the quickest, most athletic, fastest, strongest player in the country. But he just really knows how to play.”
Lubick added, “You know, though, as good a player as he is, Otto is an even better teammate.”
After Georgetown beat Rutgers at home Saturday, Porter was told by a team official he had scored 28 points. “How many rebounds?” he asked. “Eight,” he was told.