Just 18, he plays so . . . old.
The first thing that stands out about his game is the midrange jump shot — a 10- to 15-footer that always makes sense in the offense and is a lost art among young players. At a time when most kids run straight to the three-point line, Porter moves in to increase his odds.
Watch a YouTube clip of the Georgetown freshman’s high school career and it’s clear he’s not trying to throw down vicious tomahawk dunks when he maneuvers inside. Plain-as-vanilla layups that economize his energy will do.
He’s also that rare youngster who doesn’t need the ball to thrive — he’s never attempted more than 12 shots in any game the entire season.
It’s almost impossible to compare him to a modern-day player because he does so many things well from another century. He goes after rebounds with the tenacity of Moses Malone. Long and agile on offense, he has so much George Gervin in his game you want to ask, “But can you finger roll?”
“He never played AAU or went to any of the Nike or Adidas camps, you know that, right?” says Robert Kirby, the Hoyas’ second-year assistant.
“He never entered that world,” Kirby explains. “His father didn’t want him to. It was the kind of world he thought would corrupt his kid of learning what he needed to about the game. He knew the guys that were coaching a lot of those AAU teams were not very good coaches. He knew more than them.”
Kirby knows because he watched Porter grow up in southeast Missouri. He played at the same junior college that Otto Porter Sr. played at, and remains friends with Otto’s father today.
The more he talked, the more it all made sense:
America, meet one of your last home-schooled ballers, a kid who incredibly had not taken a plane flight until his first official recruiting trip to the Hilltop last April.
Where did Otto Porter Jr. come from? The land the game forgot.
Not playing AAU basketball “helped me as a team player; I always wanted to win, do everything I could to win,” Porter said Saturday before practice. “I learned to find open teammates, rebound, play defense . . .
He paused and added, “I just wanted to have that old-school game like my father had.”
How refreshing, the first kid in forever not to want to be Kobe, KD, KG, D-Wade or any other player to go by their initials or first name. Granted, if you knew Otto Porter Sr.’s story, you’d want his game, too.
He once had 25 rebounds in the state tournament, leading Scott County Central to championships like Otto’s mother, Elnora, did. (Otto Jr. won three, breaking his father’s record with 29 points and 35 rebounds in the state title game as a senior.)
Otto Sr. also played for the legendary Gene Bess at Three Rivers Community College. Bess coached Latrell Sprewell there in the 1990s and was the first men’s coach to ever reach 1,000 victories in 2006. Light on praise, Bess told Kirby a few years ago, “You better come see him play,” which told Kirby all he needed to know. “When Gene Bess says that, you go right away,” he said.