Porter family roots began in Iowa

Same colors, different place for Missouri basketball standouts

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — A black-and-gold swarm in excess of 15,600 fans will gather on Friday night at Mizzou Arena as Missouri opens its basketball season against Iowa State.

The headliner will be preseason All-American Michael Porter Jr.

But long before the Porter family became a fixture in Columbia, a different black-and-gold community shaped its basketball roots.

Lisa (Becker) Porter, mother of Michael Jr., shined as a 6-foot-4 presence for Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. She earned the state’s Miss Iowa Basketball honor in 1982 and posted a staggering 58.7 points per game as a senior.

Porter later donned the black-and-gold of the University of Iowa and tallied 1,335 career points. One night, in particular, though, stands out within Porter’s history in the Hawkeye state. It involved a loss, the state fire marshal and a spot in the NCAA record books.

On Feb. 3, 1985, an overflow crowd of 22,157 made its way through the turnstiles at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to see the Hawkeyes face Ohio State with a first-place spot in the Big Ten on the line.

“Even in the tunnel, you could tell by the sound that it was different,” Becker told The Gazette as part of the 25th anniversary of the game.

It’s common for the Porters — parents and children alike — to play in front of large crowds. Friday’s debut against Iowa State isn’t an exception. With No. 13 and 11, respectively, stitched on their jerseys, Michael Jr. and Jontay Porter will embark on a new era of Missouri basketball.

Sparked by the firing of Lorenzo Romar at Washington, a whirlwind of events brought Michael Porter Jr. back to his hometown team. Now, the freshman bears the weight of a program that compiled a mere 27 wins over the past three seasons.

He’ll say it’s not a foregone conclusion, but Porter Jr. likely is a one-and-done player. A 6-10 forward with NBA comparisons to Kevin Durant, Porter Jr. is set to be a top three pick in next year’s draft.

He’s a player who should generate his own offense and stuff stat sheets throughout the season. His lone deterrent from National Player of the Year candidacy will be over-aggressiveness on the offensive end and not utilizing his length properly on the defensive end.

“He’s a talented player,” Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin said at Wednesday’s news conference. “I’m excited to see him myself. He can score the ball and finish in a lot of different ways.”

Although he won’t move as swiftly as Michael Jr., Jontay Porter will flash some of the high-level potential that landed him a top spot on many 2018 recruiting lists before reclassification.

He’ll undoubtedly be challenged by growing pains as a 17-year-old still learning to use his 6-11, 240-pound frame, but Jontay should be an anchor to Missouri’s interior defense. Albeit with different personnel, the Tigers were bullied around last season as SEC opponents shot 52 percent from inside the paint.

Working in the shadow of his brother could ultimately benefit the younger Porter as it takes the immediate pressure off the five-star talent to produce on both ends of the floor.

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