When he arrived at the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic in Charlotte, Otto Porter Jr. had only committed to Georgetown a few days before and was a relative unknown among his fellow participants — with the exception of one. Bradley Beal, at the time a highly rated recruit headed to Florida, was all too familiar with the tall, spaghetti-thin forward from a tiny town in Missouri after whiffing twice in attempts to lure Porter to his AAU team in St. Louis.
Beal and Porter were roommates at the high school basketball showcase that weekend and got the chance to know each other after a brief encounter the year before, when Beal attended one of Porter’s high school games to offer a failed recruiting pitch. But now, two years after sharing the court as teammates on the losing West squad in Charlotte, Beal and Porter are once again on the same team with the Washington Wizards after they were selected No. 3 overall in consecutive drafts.
“Karma,” Beal said when asked how the two players wound up together in Washington. “He’s definitely a great asset. I’m glad we have him and I have the opportunity to play with him again.”
The two were forced to cross paths as high school seniors, when Porter was selected to join future NBA lottery picks Beal, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Austin Rivers, Michael Carter-Williams and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the high school showcase in Charlotte.
“I was surprised I got picked. I didn’t know about the Jordan [Classic] until they told me. And then just going there, being the guy that nobody knows about, I had to go in there and prove myself,” Porter said. “It was the first time being able to play against some of the top guys in my class, but I had been keeping up with the top guys, Bradley to Austin, all them guys. But just to play with them during that time, it gave me a little more confidence in myself. Like, ‘Hey, I can play with these guys.’ ”
Porter had two successful seasons at Georgetown, where he became the school’s first first-team all-American since Allen Iverson and the highest draft pick to play for Hoyas Coach John Thompson III. But Beal still marvels at how far Porter has come from such obscure roots and remembers having to explain that Porter was indeed a legit player to other participants in the high school all-star game.
“I was the only one who knew. I knew who he was because he was from Missouri and I’d see stats and he’s averaging like 30 points and 20 rebounds. I’m like, ‘Who is this kid?’ He came out of nowhere,” Beal said. “It’s amazing how a guy who didn’t go to AAU at all, goes to Georgetown is now in the NBA, drafted third. Just came onto the scene. He really did a great job.”
Beal won’t be able to participate with the Wizards in the NBA summer league in Las Vegas as he recovers from a stress injury in his right fibula, but he will travel with the team and is observing practices. He occasionally offers tips to players, including an eager-to-please Porter.
“If I make a mistake, I make sure that, hey, I correct it. That’s something I always grew up doing,” said Porter, 20, who is actually 25 days older than Beal. “Make sure I do it better, so I don’t lose.”
Beal was among the first Wizards to congratulate Porter after he got drafted, believing that the 6-foot-9 small forward would serve as the perfect complementary piece for him and point guard John Wall as the franchise attempts to end a five-year playoff drought.
“Definitely,” Beal said, “because he’s so versatile. He can shoot the ball. He can slash. He rebounds. He plays great defense. And he’s really fundamentally sound. He doesn’t do too much. He knows his limits. That’s exactly the type of player we need.”
Beal felt the same way about Porter in high school and is confident that the duo would have won a few AAU tournaments. But Porter politely declined Beal’s invitations, with his father, Otto Sr., vehemently against an AAU system that he feels focuses on playing games rather than emphasizing skills. Beal said he never felt offended by Porter’s decision.
“He said no, so I respected him,” Beal said.
A few years later, the Wizards made Beal’s vision a reality in the NBA.
“Eventually we’d wind up together,” Porter said with a laugh. “It’s just something great, something you can’t control. . . . It’s going to be interesting playing with him, just getting to know each other even better. We knew each other, but we have to get a bond better, so it’s in progress.”