Tag Archives: Michael Porter Jr.

Cuonzo Martin’s Missouri Basketball Team Gives Tiger Fans Reason To Be Excited

They say that the Earth was created in six days. Not too shabby. Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin may have that beat if we’re to believe both the experts and Missouri fans.

When Jim Sterk hired Martin to rebuild the Missouri basketball program, I’m not sure even Sterk envisioned Martin’s masterpiece being created in such short time. Martin hired Michael Porter Sr. to sit along side him on the bench and the rest was a domino effect. Porter Sr.’s blue chip recruit son, Michael Porter Jr., pledged his commitment to the Tigers, highly regarded point guard recruit Blake Harris jumped onboard Martin’s party bus, Jeremiah Tilmon was wooed away from Illinois, and, finally, Porter Jr.’s brother Jontay reclassified for the 2017 season and joined his father and oldest brother.

[Merenbloom: What Mizzou Assistant Michael Porter Sr. is All About – Family Values and Humility]
[Merenbloom: Missouri’s Jim Sterk Got His Man]

Martin inherited a team that went 8-24 in 2016. With only two players taller than 6’8”, the roster Kim Anderson left for Martin was short on height and talent. And now the 2017-18 team has multiple blue chip recruits to go along with six players who are taller than 6’8”. On paper, this is the most formidable roster Missouri has had since the late 1980s. Emphasis being placed upon ON PAPER.

Missouri went from SEC doormat to being considered contenders to win the conference. Not only that, but Missouri is one of the preseason favorites to win the national championship. Everyone needs to pump the brakes on Martin’s party bus.

Let’s at least see this team play before anointing them as a dream team. Martin’s team will certainly be talented, but it’s going to be a talented and young team. No matter how talented youth is, it’s still youth. A learning curve should be anticipated as these kids transition from high school and AAU ball to major college play.

The Tigers start the season at home against Iowa State. While the Cyclones aren’t considered to be an elite team this year, they should still be considered to be a tough test for a team as young as Missouri is. We’ll learn a lot about Martin’s team in this game but we shouldn’t base the entire season on this one game.

I expect this team to be good, but I also expect this team to have growing pains. Being able to score shouldn’t be a problem for this team. It’s on the defensive side of the court that I anticipate this team showing the most growth as the season progresses. Defense has a lot to do with being disciplined and knowing your opponent. Players coming right out of high school are used to being the biggest players on the court. This also means that these players are used to physically dominating their opponents. That won’t be the case most nights in the SEC.

Missouri fans should be excited about this team but the fans should also expect to see some frustrating moments. When those moments happen, just remember how the last three seasons went. It may take a few months for this team to mature and hit its stride, but once it does, it could really make some noise in the NCAA tournament. Be excited, but a trip to the Final Four shouldn’t be considered a foregone conclusion. But it sure is nice to be a Missouri basketball fan with legitimate anticipation and hope for an upcoming season. It’s been too long.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

College Basketball Needs the Loathing and Hate of the Missouri versus Kansas Rivalry

Old rivalries die hard. Old rivalries are so ingrained into the fabric of some teams’ psyches that even if two teams no longer play each other, the rivalry continues. Old, dormant rivalries die hard.

This case of old, dormant, raging rivalries is what rears its head each March between fans from Missouri and Kansas.

From the perspective of the Missouri fan, Kansas is being petty for no longer playing the Tigers. More specifically, Bill Self is being petty for objecting to continue the rivalry on the court.

Kansas and Self contend that Missouri ended the rivalry when it accepted the invitation to join the SEC. Missouri left Kansas behind and Self has no intention of letting the programs cuddle. But Self’s Jayhawks continue to be cozy with other former Big 12 members, Nebraska and Colorado.

Kansas fans object to playing Missouri again based on the scorned lover mentality along with the “what’s in it for me” mentality. I mean, seriously, if you’re Kansas, what is in it for you? Missouri just finished up its worse three year period in the history of the program. Why should Kansas feel obligated to schedule another patsy on it schedule?

Now, from the perspective of Missouri, leaving the Big 12 was never anything personal against Kansas. It was just business as they say. The Big 12 was on shaky ground and Missouri jumped at the opportunity to be in a stable conference. Just as Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M did.

But none of this killed the rivalry. Far from it. All of this has only enflamed the rivalry.

As Missouri once again sat home in March, the program and fans were the recipients of some overwhelming superb news. Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 rated recruit in the class of 2017, de-committed from Washington and pledged to play for Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers. Porter Jr. is going home.

[Merenbloom: What Mizzou Assistant Coach Michael Porter Sr. Is All About – Family Values and Humility]

With heads held high and chests puffed out, Missouri fans took to social media to rub Kansas’ nose in it. Look, I get it. Missouri fans haven’t had much to cheer about the last three years and the absence of elite level talent had a lot to do with the misfortune of Kim Anderson’s three year record. Tiger fans have a right to be giddy, to be proud, and to feel like kings and queens of the basketball world. But Tiger Nation needs to slow its roll and put Porter Jr. in perspective before throwing his commitment in the faces of Kansas fans. Kansas gets a lot of players that are similar to Porter Jr. I mean, A LOT of players that are elite.

As Tiger fans were lighting their morning-after cigarettes and basking in the afterglow of signing Porter Jr., Kansas was playing Oregon in the Elite 8. In what amounted to a home game for Kansas, Oregon strolled into the Sprint Center and smacked Kansas in the mouth for 40 minutes. There was no group of fans happier to see this than the Missouri fans sitting at home. I’ll admit it. I was one of those Tiger fans feeling pretty good as I sat on the couch next to my Jayhawk rooting wife. Yea, yea, yea. Dogs and cats living together and all that.

I adore my Tigers. And because of that, I could never root for Kansas. But here’s the thing. As I get older and as I blog from my basement, I have gained perspective. It’s not quite unbiased perspective, but it’s perspective none-the-less.

As Dana Altman and Oregon ride into the Final Four, Missouri fans can’t help but point and laugh at Self. He choked again they all say. Self’s record in the Elite 8 at Kansas is 2-5. He can’t win when it matters most Tiger fans say.

Now for perspective.

Self has been to two Final Fours with Kansas. Self has won a championship with Kansas. What Missouri fan wouldn’t be ecstatic if all of that was on the resume of Missouri basketball?

Old school Missouri fans hold Norm Stewart in god like status. Stewart won 634 games as the coach of his alma mater. But guess what? Stewart never reached the national championship game. Stewart never reached the Final Four. And Stewart, in his 32 years as the Missouri coach, reached the Elite 8 once.

So if you’re a Missouri fan who is claiming that Self under achieves and is a choke artist just spare me. I don’t want to hear it from you. Because, as Missouri fans, you should all know better. A coach isn’t completely defined in March. At least not Stewart.

But after saying all of that, I’ll say this; I get it.

I get it because Missouri versus Kansas is still a rivalry. And it may be one of, if not the best, rivalries in all of college basketball. I mean the teams no longer play each other and the fans are still as passionate as ever with each other.

As for Missouri, Kansas, and Self? You’ll all play each other again. Missouri will find its way back to the tournament and when it does, the tournament committee will place the teams in the same bracket. The tournament is a made for television event and Missouri playing Kansas will be must-see TV. And when this happens, it will be wonderful. The level of loathing and hate will make everything right again in the world of college basketball.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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What Mizzou Assistant Coach Michael Porter Sr. is All About – Family Values and Humility

At this point, we’re all aware of LaVar Ball. He makes outlandish guarantees (how’d that 2017 UCLA national championship work out, buddy?) to go along with outlandish demands. Among his demands is the asking price for the shoe deal he believes his sons deserve. Or is it the asking price he believes he deserves?

[Merenbloom: LaVar Ball Lives Through His Protege Son Lonzo Ball]

Ball does have a small group of supporters. The narrative goes something like this – LaVar is a proud dad who wants nothing but the best for his sons. What dad wouldn’t and shouldn’t act like LaVar as a child’s dreams are being supported?

It’s now time for a comparison of fathers. Let’s discuss Missouri assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. and his son Michael Porter Jr.

Porter Jr. is the No. 1 ranked recruit in the 2017 class. He had originally committed to play for Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies. And then Romar was fired. Porter Jr. reopened his recruitment and he’s now headed to Missouri.

And for this, Porter Sr. is considered to be worse than Ball. How did we get to this point? Glad you asked.

Porter Sr. is married to Lisa Becker. That is important because that makes Robin Pingeton Porter Sr.’s sister-in-law. Pingeton is the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Missouri.

Pingeton had hired Porter Sr. to be one of her Director of Basketball Operations and eventually promoted him to assistant coach. He had played college ball, toured with Athletes In Action, and coached at the AAU level. So this wasn’t like hiring some guy off the street. And, sure, it helped that Pingeton is Porter Sr.’s sister-in-law. But none-the-less, Porter Sr. was qualified to be an assistant.

Porter Sr. spent six seasons at Missouri before accepting a job with Romar at Washington. Make no mistake, Romar’s hiring of Porter Sr. was about much more than Porter Jr.

Romar and Porter Sr. go a long way back. Romar was a player-coach on the Athletes In Action team that Porter Sr. had played on in the early 1990s. Porter Sr. credits Romar for turning his life around. In short, Romar was the mentor who influenced Porter Sr. to grow up and become an adult.

“I mean, I was at a crossroads, and they took me in and let me live with them,” Porter said. “I saw a stable family. I saw a man who was committed to his family, and those were just examples that I needed to see up close and personal at that point in my life.”

Asked to expand upon that crossroads, Porter replied: “Just the kind of guy I was. Lorenzo was one of the first guys to tell me the truth about myself. ‘Porter, man, you’ve always got an excuse for why you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. You’ve always got an excuse for why you’re late.’ Stuff like that.

Family. Responsibility. Accountability. Those are the things that Porter Sr. learned to value and to embrace while living with the Romar’s.
During his time spent with Romar, Porter Sr. expressed a desire to be a coach. Romar told him to go out and gain some experience and he would consider hiring Porter Sr. after he had built a coaching resume. True to form, Porter Sr. acted on Romar’s advice. And true to form, when the opportunity presented itself and the timing was right for all parties, Romar offered Porter Sr. a job as one of his assistants and Porter Sr. accepted the offer.
Porter Sr. just as easily could have transitioned from Pingeton’s bench to Kim Anderson’s bench. It’s all based on rumors and speculation, but Anderson either declined to offer Porter Sr. an opportunity to coach on the men’s side or Porter Sr. wanted nothing to do with coaching for Anderson. Either way, Porter Sr. had his opportunity and off to Washington he went.
Porter Sr. has two daughters who play for their aunt at Missouri; Bri and Cierra. The family also had spent six years in Columbia. With the family roots that had been established, Columbia was home. So when Porter Jr. committed to Missouri by saying, “I’m coming home,” he was being sincere. Not only was he being sincere, the entire family was being sincere.
Yes, it’s true, Porter Jr. wouldn’t be headed to Missouri if his father wouldn’t have been hired by Cuonzo Martin. But let’s be honest. Recruiting is like sales. It’s about relationships and who you know. That doesn’t mean rules were broken or that Porter Sr. is “getting rich” off of his son. Porter Sr. is chasing his dream just as Porter Jr. and the rest of the Porters are chasing their dreams. It’s important to draw the distinction that each member of this family have their own dreams that are independent of each other.
Ball has groomed his kids to be basketball players since before they were born. He’s not only supported them but he’s branded his kids along with the entire family. That branding, which he intends to turn into $1 billion, is on the backs of his children. Ball’s intent is to become a billionaire off of his kid’s talent.
Now compare Ball’s comments to Porter Sr’s comments.

“I tell my kids all the time, I couldn’t care less if they played basketball, and I mean that from my heart,” Michael Sr. said. “I love that they play, because Lisa and I played and we love this game, but we are way more concerned about the people they become than being great basketball players.

“We talk a lot about, in your own mind, understanding there’s a distinction. Basketball’s what you do. It’s not who you are. Who you are is a human being. Love people, and treat them incredibly well. Those are the things that we value.”

Ball values $1 billion shoe deals. Ball has always defined his children by what they do; playing basketball. The Porters, on the other hand, have taught their children that there’s a distinction between what they do and who they are. Family values don’t come with a balance sheet or profit margin. At least not for the Porters.

I would also argue that the family values that the Porters have instilled in their children include humility.

Porter Sr. played college basketball but wasn’t a superstar. He went on to play for Athletes In Action and then called it a career as far as playing was concerned. He never created his own myth. He never claimed to be able to beat Michael Jordan one-one-on. Instead of inflating his own ego, Porter Sr. accepted his reality and set out to figure out his place in the world.

He wanted to coach so he volunteered with Romar back in the early 1990s and eventually earned spots coaching on the AAU circuit as well as Pingeton’s coaching staff. Porter Sr. even spent time as a Christian hip-hop artist touring under the name, Rahlo. Humility. Porter Sr. has always accepted the reality of his situation and made the most of it.

When critics of Porter Sr. claim he’s worse than Ball and that Porter Sr. is the father who is truly getting rich off of his superstar child, I can’t help but jump to his defense. It’s difficult to believe that Porter Sr. is living vicariously through his kids after examining his life. Porter Sr. has never been a person who chased the spotlight. He’s a person who has chased happiness through strong family values and humility.

No. Porter Sr. is nothing like Ball.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Jim Sterk’s Missouri Tiger Legacy will Ride on Kim Anderson’s Replacement

Kim Anderson is by all accounts a great guy. Unfortunately for both him and Missouri basketball, being a great guy doesn’t guarantee professional success. And a record of complete and total ineptitude is what Anderson and his coaching staff brought to Missouri.

I’m not going to pile additional negative criticism upon this all-around great guy. If you want to read my message of fire and brimstone in regards to Anderson, you can find those articles archived on Campus Pressbox.

[Merenbloom – Missouri Tiger Basketball: Kim Anderson Proves You Can’t Always Go Home]
[Merenbloom – An Athletic Director is a Gambler and Missouri AD Mack Rhoades is Rolling the Dice with Kim Anderson]

Jim Sterk hasn’t fired Anderson, yet. But most Missouri fans consider it only a matter of time. Sterk may consider it a matter of time as well considering the statement he made about the security of Anderson’s job status. Sterk isn’t upset with the state of the Missouri basketball. He’s disappointed.

The Missouri fan base and Sterk may see the glass of disappointment as half-empty, but not Anderson. No, Anderson sees it more as a glass of opportunity that is half-full. Anderson believes that his team “competed” in the non-conference.

“I know people probably don’t want to hear this, but, as you look back at the nonconference, certainly we didn’t accomplish what we would have liked to,” Anderson said. “But I think you could realistically say it wasn’t like we got blown out by 35 points every single game. I think we competed.”

Anderson is correct when saying his team never got blown out by 35 points. But Missouri also lost to North Carolina Central, Eastern Illinois and Lipsomb. All three of those so-called buy-games were home games for Missouri. Those are games that an SEC team wins. Those aren’t games that an SEC team merely competes in. Missouri has become the buy-game for other teams and that’s disappointing.

Writers at other websites won’t venture to guess who athletic director Jim Sterk will attempt to eventually replace Anderson with due to not knowing the budget for the job opening. I, on the other hand, won’t be scared away from suggesting four coaches who I believe would be worth considering.

In all honesty, I hesitate to throw this first name out there, but it has to be done. That’s right. I’m talking about Gregg Marshall. Yes, Missouri did (or didn’t) attempt to wine and dine the Wizard of Wichita State once before, but you know what they say – timing is everything. He’s still a coach worth calling. At least it’s worth calling his agent to gauge his interest. Wichita State pays him just over $3 million.

While that is a dump truck load of money, it shouldn’t scare Sterk away. Sure, when Frank Haith left Missouri, Mike Alden may have been reluctant to pay a basketball coach more than football coach Gary Pinkel. Pinkel achieved enough success at Missouri that some want a statue built for him. But now Barry Odom roams the Missouri sideline and it should be easy to pay a basketball coach more than a first-year head coach who just went 4-8.

This next coach could be a more realistic option and would offer a potential juicy side story. How about University of Washington coach Lorenzo Romar? I wouldn’t hate seeing Romar in black and gold. Romar established himself as an ace recruiter in Seattle. The coach has a track record of recruiting coast-to-coast and that includes securing a commitment from Columbia, Missouri native Michael Porter Jr.

Recruiting has never been Romar’s issue. Winning in the NCAA tournament is what’s been the thorn in Romar’s side. And that is what has him on the hot-seat. I believe Romar could make sense at Missouri because he would bring talent to Columbia. Talent is something that Missouri basketball has desperately lacked under Anderson. Once he enticed talented players to wear the Tiger uniform, there is no doubt in my mind that he would win in the SEC. Oh yeah. As for that potential juicy side story? If Romar is the coach to replace Anderson, the telling sign could be whether or not Porter Jr. signs his letter of intent at Washington.

My preference for Missouri basketball would be to lure a current, successful Division-I head coach to Columbia. But sometimes our lives don’t turn out the way we hoped for and we don’t get what we want (see the Kim Anderson hire). There has to be a backup plan that would still leave Missouri fans feeling comfortable. My preferred backup plan includes a less heralded head coach and an assistant coach.

How would Missouri fans feel about Chris Collins leading the charge at Mizzou Arena? For starters, get over the fact that he played at Duke. Not every former Duke assistant is going to sleep with a player’s girlfriend (allegedly) or snort cocaine in the Capital Grille bathroom (allegedly). Collins has been the head coach at Northwestern since 2013 and he’s turned that program into a winner. His Wildcat team won 20 games during the 2015-16 season. That was good enough for 9th place in the Big Ten. But come on. It’s the Big Ten, and unlike the SEC, there is quality basketball being played there.

Do you know who Ron Sanchez is? Probably not. Truth be told, I didn’t know who Ron Sanchez was prior to working on this article. But I’m now a fan of Ron Sanchez. Sanchez is currently an assistant coach at the University of Virginia. Prior to his job with the Cavaliers, he was one of Tony Bennett’s assistants while at Washington State. Here’s what I like about Sanchez. He has been a successful contributor to programs that don’t rely on blue-chip recruits. Sanchez is schooled in implementing a system and recruiting players who will fit into that system. For a school like Missouri that doesn’t have a track record of attracting high-profile recruits, a coach like Sanchez could do well in Columbia.

This isn’t a complete list of coaches who I would be happy seeing at Missouri, but these are four coaches who would give me the hope that Anderson has stripped out of the program. Other coaches who I would like to see considered are Mark Montgomery, Steve Masiello, and Jeff Boals.

There is one coach who would be a big, bold hire for Missouri. As I stated with Marshall, timing is everything and this candidate being a viable candidate would require perfect timing. The coach I am talking about is Fred Hoiberg. He was a terrific coach during his tenure at his alma mater, Iowa State. Hoiberg is in his second season with the Chicago Bulls and his seat grows hotter by the day in the Windy City. When talking with my friends who are Missouri basketball fans, I’ve professed my love for Hoiberg. He would be my top choice if available. Hoiberg’s availability would hinge on when the Bulls decide to cut The Mayor loose. If he is fired mid-season, Sterk needs to put the full-court press on hiring him.

Sterk has a monumental task in front of him. Missouri fans love having a winning football team but I believe what most Tiger fans desire is a winning basketball team. While the legacies of most Power 5 athletic directors ride on their head football coaching hires, Sterk’s legacy may ride on this basketball hire. No pressure, Jim. Just don’t screw it up.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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