COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)- The nation’s No. 1 recruit solidified his college choice Wednesday when swingman Michael Porter Jr. signed a financial aid agreement to play for new coach Cuonzo Martin at Missouri.
The 6-foot-10 Porter initially chose Washington last year when his father, Michael Porter Sr., worked as an assistant for then-coach Lorenzo Romar. But when Romar was fired, Porter’s father was hired to be an assistant for Martin with the Tigers, and the talented forward soon made a verbal commitment.
“Coach Martin is such a normal, humble guy. I can’t wait to play for him,” Porter said Wednesday. “He wants to put me in the best possible situations to succeed. As a player, you can really tell he is a guy that wants his players to be great, see them do well and make it to the next level.”
Porter grew up in Columbia and starred for Father Tolton Catholic until last year, when he played for Nathan Hale High School in Seattle. He averaged 36.2 points and 13.6 rebounds as a senior, quickly becoming one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits and a likely NBA lottery pick in 2018.
He was voted MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 29, making him the fifth prep player to win it the same year as the Naismith and Gatorade boys national player of the year awards.
The others? Alonzo Mourning, Chris Weber, LeBron James and Dwight Howard.
Porter’s prep career included a Missouri state title for Tolton in 2016, its first state championship in 54 years, and a 29-0 record for Nathan Hale and its first Washington state title.
“It goes without saying, but Michael is a special player and a special person,” Martin said. “Michael comes to the Mizzou Family from a great family of his own, and our basketball program is thrilled to have a student-athlete with his character, drive and passion.”
Porter signed a national letter of intent with Washington in the fall, but he was released from it when Romar was let go. The NCAA only allows prospects to sign one such agreement per year, so Porter had to sign a financial aid agreement with Missouri on the first day of the spring signing period.
Porter’s family has deep ties to Missouri that extend beyond his father. Older sisters Bri and Cierra play for the women’s basketball program, which is coached by his aunt, Robin Pingeton.
His mother, Lisa, played college basketball at Iowa and his father played for New Orleans.
“Mizzou is my home. I lived in Columbia from fifth grade all the way until my senior year of high school,” Porter said. “That place has shown me so much love. And I want to give back to that. I want to get Mizzou basketball back to the atmosphere I know it can be.”
The Tigers went 8-23 last season, leading to the firing of Kim Anderson after three seasons in charge. The once-proud program hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2013, and hasn’t made it out of the opening weekend since Mike Anderson took Missouri to the Elite Eight during the 2008-09 season.
But Martin, who grew up in East St. Louis and began his head coaching career at Missouri State, has brought a renewed energy to the program. Porter’s commitment was the first significant milestone, but he’s also signed four-star Texas point guard C.J. Robert and has a verbal commitment from Blake Harris, a three-star point guard from Raleigh, North Carolina.
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