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All In The Family: How Washington’s Michael Porter package deal came to fruition

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Michael Porter Jr., who may be the best prospect in high school basketball and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, committed to Washington late on Friday night, a surprising move for anyone that doesn’t know the details of the situation.

Lorenzo Romar is no stranger to NBA-ready talent. In the 14 seasons that he’s been the head coach of the Washington Huskies, he’s sent nine players to the first round of the NBA Draft and has had 11 players selected in the top 40. That doesn’t include Isaiah Thomas, who is currently the best Washington alum playing in the NBA after being drafted 60th in 2011. He’s had five first round picks in the last five years, including ushering a pair of one-and-done talents off to the 2016 NBA Draft, Marquese Chriss and Dejounte Murray.

Romar gets guys to the league.

“I plan to be one and done,” Porter told NBCSports.com last week, “if I’m good enough.”

And he probably will be.

But Porter also made it a point to mention that he doesn’t want to go to a college “that will develop me but not win,” which has more or less been the story of the Washington Huskies for the last decade. Romar has been to the NCAA tournament just six times in the 14 years he’s spent in Seattle. He hasn’t been to the tournament since 2011, including a year where his Huskies were on the wrong side of the bubble despite winning the Pac-12 regular season title.

So how did a kid from the midwest, who grew up in Columbia, Missouri, wind up picking a mediocre basketball program in the Pacific Northwest?

His dad, Michael Porter Sr.

That’s who Romar hired as an assistant coach in May, and that’s when everyone knew that the announcement Michael Jr. made on Friday was an inevitability.

You hire the dad, you get the kid, and when the kid is as good as Michael Jr. is, the hire is always going to be worth it.

On the surface, it appears unseemly and, frankly, typical; a embattled coach plays in the recruiting dirt to try and salvage a stalled career. We’re a Ricky Roe duffel bag and an Oscar-worthy performance from Shaq away from the script of Blue Chips.

But there’s more to this story than a quick payday for pops.

The Porters keep it in the family.

——

There are eight of them.

Bri, a junior, and Cierra, a sophomore, are members of Missouri’s women’s basketball team. Michael Jr. will be joined by Jontay, a top 100 prospect in the Class of 2018, and Coban, a rising freshman, at Nathan Hale HS in Seattle this fall. Jevon and Izaak will follow in their older siblings’ footsteps eventually, while Jayda, the baby of the bunch, is not yet old enough to allow this basketball family to run five-on-five.

“Michael is too competitive for that,” Michael Sr. joked.

It didn’t, however, keep the Porter family from doing their bonding on a basketball court. Michael Sr. started training his kids when they were young, some of them before kindergarten. The focus, he said, was to ensure that his kids developed perimeter skills. You see, Michael Sr. is 6-foot-4, as is his wife, Lisa. She played at Iowa and professionally in Europe. Michael Sr. played at New Orleans. He knew his kids were probably going to be tall, and he knew they would probably be athletic. That kind of thing tends to run in the family, but it’s also the kind of trait that can pigeon-hole a player down the road.

“They were taller when they were younger,” Michael Sr. said, “and everyone kept putting them under the basket. ‘Get the rebounds, don’t dribble, throw it to a guard.’ What if my daughter or my son ends up 5-foot-8?”

So he taught them how to dribble and he taught them how to shoot while teaching them to love the game and ingraining in them a love for the process that’s required when trying to be the best at what you do.

All the while, Lisa was teaching her kids.

Literally.

The Porters home-schooled their children. The five oldest lasted through the eighth grade, when high school transcripts and college eligibility would have become the complicating factor. They plan on doing the same with the three youngest.

“Lisa and I wanted our values to be imprinted on our children rather than our culture’s values,” Michael Sr. said. “We just thought by home-schooling them until they’re a little bit older, personalities form. In our culture and our home, day in and day out, we could form some stuff that we hoped would stick once they went to school.”

Lisa has an MBA. She had a career with Hewlett-Packard, a job where she was good enough that her company would allow her time off in the summer to travel with the Athletes In Action basketball team, where she met her husband (and Lorenzo Romar, more on that in a minute). AIA is, essentially, a basketball team of missionaries, one built with a myriad of former college players that travel the country and the world playing exhibitions and spreading their belief. The first thing you see when you go to the website for AIA is, “For the growth of the game and the growth of its people, to the Glory of God.”

“I vowed that I would never be a stay-at-home mom and I would never home school my kids and I wouldn’t do those types of things,” Lisa said. “I just had a mindset of being very ambitious in my career. The sacrifice of being at home with them and giving them a foundation, I would do it all over again in a heart beat.”

“It’s a laying down of your life to serve.”

Service is something that is important to this family. They’re quite religious. Michael Sr. spent more than a decade producing and performing Christian hip hop under the stage name Rahlo, which is not exactly the most profitable or popular genre of music. But he was good enough that it allowed him to travel around the world to perform. He says he toured South Africa twice, making it to a handful of European countries. He even brought Michael Jr. with him to a show in Jamaica when Jr. was nine years old.

That music career began right as Michael Sr.’s time with AIA was ending. He was volunteering with Romar, going into the worst neighborhoods in Cincinnati, where the two lived at the time, to try and build a connection with the kids that had nothing. As Michael Sr. explains it, the goal was to design summer bootcamps that gave the kids at high schools with extremely low graduation rates a chance to develop life skills that they never had the opportunity to learn.

“One of the biggest issues they had was reading comprehension,” he said. “They could read the words, but when I said, ‘tell me what that means,’ they had a big time issue with recall.”

“But we all loved hip hop. They knew every word to every song. They knew context. They knew everything. So I started dabbling around, putting everything I wanted to teach them into rhyme form. Doing raps. Put some rhythm to it and they didn’t know they were learning.”

Eventually, Michael Sr.’s rap career came to an end as more and more bundles of joy with mouths to feed arrived, but the statement was made.

Not only did the Porters consider it essential that their values were imprinted on their children that they opted for home-schooling, they thought it important enough for Lisa to sacrifice a promising career so Michael Sr. could use his platform to connect with young people and spread the message that he — that they — believed so strongly in.

——

Keelon Lawson knew what he had in his sons.

K.J. was a top-100 player in the Class of 2015, a versatile 6-foot-8 forward with the perimeter skill set to command the interest of high major programs in and around his Memphis home. Dedric, a top 20 player in the Class of 2016, was even better, a potential first round pick, and the folks in Memphis that have seen the two youngest Lawsons play will tell you that the best is yet to come. Chandler, who just finished his freshman year of high school, is popping up in the top ten of the scouting services that rank kids that age.

Josh Pastner, then the Memphis head coach, knew that it was a priority for him to keep the Lawsons at home, so he hired Keelon as an assistant coach back in the summer of 2014. That landed K.J. and Dedric, who reclassified and enrolled at Memphis last summer, graduating high school the same year as his brother that was a year older than him.

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Keelon’s offseason was spent using his sons’ NBA Draft status as leverage in a power play to try and remain on staff as one of Tubby Smith’s three full-time assistants. It didn’t work, thanks to a rule that the NCAA tried to quietly change back in April.

Six years earlier, in April of 2010, the NCAA instituted a rule that tried to eliminate the package deals they believed had become too commonplace. College basketball programs, as they are wont to do, found a loophole in the system that allowed them to pay someone close to a prospect they were pursuing: Give them a job. Kansas hired Mario Chalmers’ father Ronnie as their Director of Basketball Operations. Milt Wagner was hired into the same position by John Calipari in order to get his son, DaJuan, to Memphis. Cal also hired Lamont Peterson, who was a trainer and an assistant coach in the high school ranks, as an administrative assistant to land Tyreke Evans. The practice dates all the way back to Larry Brown hiring Danny Manning’s father.

The NCAA didn’t put an end to that, but they did make these package deals harder to manage. In order for a head coach to hire someone associated with a prospect within two years of that prospect enrolling at the school, that person would have to be hired into one of the three full-time assistant coaching positions on a college staff. You can bring on the father or AAU coach of a player you want as a part of your program, but you do so at your own risk; that new hire will be one of the guys developing players at practice, on the road recruiting and helping you break down film during the season.

It’s a risk, but one that the NCAA helped mitigate this offseason. The rule change that was put into effect now allows the person hired as part of the package deal to be demoted into an administrative role — like Director of Basketball Operations — after spending two years on staff.

Which is why Tubby Smith was able to keep all three Lawsons in the Memphis program for at least one more year.

So Keelon will have to settle for making six figures at Memphis without the title of ‘assistant coach’, a move that is now perfectly legal, according to the NCAA rulebook.

But legality is not enough to wash away the stench that comes with using the collegiate eligibility of your child to strong-arm a new boss in a job you’re only qualified for because your sons were blessed with size and athleticism.

Some critics will be quick to lump the Porters in with the Lawsons.

It’s not always that cut and dry.

——

The biggest issue for home-schooled children is the transition into ‘regular school’, when they’re suddenly forced into being in a building with hundreds or thousands of kids their age. That wasn’t the biggest problem for the Porters. When it’s at full capacity, their house has more people in it than the AP classes I took in high school.

“The socialization concerns that comes up with home school, we got that going on under our own roof,” Lisa said. “We have to work through stuff, conflict resolution, all that. So it just hasn’t been the transition that maybe it is for some kids.”

That doesn’t mean that the transition has been perfect, either.

“We’d go out to a restaurant and, ‘Hey, what do you guys want?’ The waitress would be there and, [they’d look at my wife and I],” Michael Sr. says. “‘Tell that to her!'”

With that situation playing itself out all-too-often, Lisa and Michael Sr. realized that they needed to find a way to get their kids to be comfortable in public, interacting with strangers.

And that’s when Snowie came to fruition.

Three summers ago, the Porters purchased a shaved ice stand and plopped it in a strip mall parking lot at the corner of a busy intersection in Columbia. The parents oversaw the business, but the day-to-day operations were handled almost entirely by the kids.

“They grew up running it,” Michael Sr. said.

“It was an opportunity to learn people skills, a work ethic and responsibility and all the skills that comes along with that,” Lisa added. Given the hectic schedule of summertime basketball, it’s difficult to find a job that would have the flexibility to allow a kid working during the summer to travel as much as the Porters traveled. This stand did exactly that.

There’s no better way to learn how to run a business than by, you know, running a business. There’s no better way to learn the value of a dollar than by earning that dollar yourself.

And it sure did help with the grocery bill, which can get exorbitant when 10 vegetarians, eight of whom are high-level athletes, are living under the same roof.

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 8: Coach Lorenzo Romar of the Washington Huskies directs his players in the first half of the game against the San Diego State Aztecs at the Viejas Arena on December 8, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Lorenzo Romar of the Washington Huskies (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)

But the stand was also another example of the Porters keeping everything within the family.

That’s what they did in 2010, when Robin Pingeton was hired as Missouri’s head women’s basketball coach. Pingeton is Lisa Porter’s sister, and she brought Michael Sr. on as a Director of Basketball Operations. He’d spend three years in that role before being promoted to assistant coach, and his two oldest daughers — Bri and Cierra — would eventually play for the Tigers.

And that’s also what happened when Michael Sr. decided to finally accept a position as an assistant coach on Romar’s staff. He had been offered the job twice before, nearly taking it last spring before eventually deciding to turn it down. He wanted to make sure Cierra, who was a freshman last season, was settled in school before the family up and moved across the country.

And Romar isn’t just Washington’s head coach. He’s Michael Jr.’s godfather. “Lorenzo’s been in my life,” he said. Not Coach Romar, mind you. Not Mr. Romar. Lorenzo.

“It isn’t just recently that we got to know him. He’s been in my life throughout. We had a relationship before any of this recruiting stuff started.”

He’s also Michael Sr.’s best friend, a man that Porter credits for changing his life. Romar found him, brought him into the AIA program, let Porter live with him and his family. He became a mentor, one he never planned on being.

“I was a very flaky,” Porter said of that period in his life. “I didn’t keep my promises, always made excuses, pointed my finger at other people, reasons for not doing whatever.”

“I looked at him and his wife, his life, and it was the first time that I had seen a black man in a family situation. My parents split up when I was little, my uncles, everyone. Here I saw a cool black dude who was totally comfortable talking in front of crowds, killing it on the court and most of all loved being with his family. That was everything that I wanted to be. That changed my life.”

“It wasn’t something my wife and I set out to do, but we lived together,” Romar said. “So we would talk about life and philosophies.”

That relationship is why Michael Jr. and Jontay considered Washington before their father became an assistant coach. Romar would have had a shot to land the duo even if Michael Sr. would have turned down the job for the third time.

Michael Sr. would not, however, be in a position to become a Pac-12 assistant coach were it not for his sons athletic ability, and he likely would not have been in a position to become an assistant coach for a women’s team in the SEC had he not had two daughters that could play there.

It’s fair to be critical of him for that.

But you must do it with the understanding that he didn’t pressure his daughters to follow him, and that his biggest concern with taking the gig at Washington was that it would put pressure on Michael Jr. to follow him.

“We had lots of conversations before he took the job,” Lisa said. “‘Is this a place that you could see yourself playing? Does this put too much pressure on you? How do you feel about this?’ We had those conversations over and over again to try to get to really the truth. We had the older siblings talk to the boys and see if they could get deeper with them about how that really resonated.”

“But it was already a place that Michael was really interested in. He just didn’t like how far away it was. So Michael Sr. and our whole family moving there makes that part of it go away.”

So yes, this was a package deal.

But this is also what the Porters do.

They keep it in the family.

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Michael Porter Jr., Jon Lopez/Nike

No. 1 goes down … again; Texas Tech upsets No. 1 Louisville

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NEW YORK — It was the fourth time it’s happened in the first five weeks of the season, the third time it’s happened against an unranked team and the second time that Madison Square Garden played host to the carnage.

The No. 1 team in the country lost.

On Tuesday night, in the opener of the Jimmy V Classic, No. 1 Louisville lost to the unranked Texas Tech, 70-57. That’s the same Texas Tech that arrived in New York City on a three-game losing streak — against Iowa, Creighton and DePaul — and who was forced to play with leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey, who missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury.

Davide Moretti led the way for the reigning national runners-up, finishing with 18 points, while freshman Terrence Shannon chipped in with 13 of his own and Chris Clarke added seven points, 12 boards and six assists.

Penn State upsets No. 4 Maryland

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Penn State used five double-figure scorers and played consistently hard on both ends of the floor as the Nittany Lions stunned previously-unbeaten No. 4 Maryland with a 76-69 Big Ten win on Tuesday night.

Losing by 30 on the road to Ohio State in their last conference game, Penn State displayed impressive intensity on the defensive end, limited turnovers on the offensive end and received plenty of help for star senior Lamar Stevens when he wasn’t having his best game. For the second straight season, Penn State upset a ranked Maryland team on its home floor as the Nittany Lions proved they’ll be a tough out at home all season.

Penn State (8-2, 1-1) received double-doubles from both Stevens (15 points, 10 rebounds) and big man Mike Watkins (15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) as the duo did a ton of damage on the interior. The Nittany Lions also had double-digit scoring efforts from Myreon Jones (14 points), Izaiah Brockington (14 points) and Myles Dread (10 points). With 19 assists and only eight turnovers, Penn State’s offense did an outstanding job of running clean sets and getting good looks from multiple players.

This is a quality win for the Nittany Lions early in the Big Ten portion of the schedule. It gives an unproven team a major boost of confidence — particularly beating a top-five team on a night where Stevens was only 5-for-13 from the floor. The Ohio State road loss shows Penn State still has a long way to go to be considered any kind of major threat. But Pat Chambers’ team is at least balanced and feisty enough to be a really tough out at home this season. A few more wins like this could put Penn State in the NCAA tournament picture with the kind of schedule they’ll play in the Big Ten this season.

But the major story here is the loss for Maryland. Because the Terps have some concerning trends they need to address.

Early in the season, Maryland (10-1, 1-1) has made a habit of falling behind early. It happened multiple times in an early-season tournament. And it’s now happened in back-to-back Big Ten games against Illinois and Penn State. While Maryland has been able to overcome slow starts all season with talent and comeback wins, a bad start came back to really bite them on Tuesday.

Trailing by 10 at halftime, Maryland tried to make second-half runs to stay with Penn State. Ultimately, the Terps were derailed by inconsistent offense, sloppy and careless turnovers (Penn State had 17 points off turnovers in the first half) and an inconsistent effort on the inside.

Maryland’s offense had 20 turnovers to only nine assists for the game as the Terps never seemed to figure out the proper way to run its offense. Alternating between senior Anthony Cowan Jr. (16 points) and sophomore Eric Ayala (15 points) initiating offense, both guards had too many bad passes and unforced errors for a team with Big Ten title aspirations.

It’s very clear that Maryland has the talent to compete with nearly any team in the country. Even on an off night, the Terps made this a one-possession game against a balanced Big Ten team with some veteran players. But Maryland can’t have these kinds of unforced errors if they see themselves making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

That mainly falls on Cowan. A few of his turnovers were stunningly bad for a senior floor leader. Getting stripped 35 feet from the hoop and throwing lazy passes for interceptions and easy layups can’t happen for Cowan. There’s just too much talent on offense for Maryland to be giving away points in close games.

The good news for Maryland is that there is plenty of time to correct some of these mistakes. Cowan can limit the mistakes. The offense will likely play better and more together. But Maryland’s slow starts are a trend to keep an eye on as it has been a factor for them in multiple games this season.

Bracketology: Cardinals, Buckeyes sit atop latest bracket projection

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At the quarter-turn of our race to Selection Sunday, the Louisville Cardinals lead Ohio State by a nose for the No. 1 overall seed.  Close behind are Michigan, Kansas, Gonzaga and Maryland.  The Buckeyes and Wolverines are the surprise entries among that group, although both have earned their positions with impressive performances out of the gate.

While the first turn provides a quick glance at the Field, we still have three-quarters of the race to run – including a daunting backstretch and the turn for home known as conference play.  Those grueling furlongs tend to separate the pretenders and contenders.

Early brackets are notoriously fluid; margins between teams are thin. Early projections also tend to produce some quirkiness – especially related to conference balance.  Keep those things in mind.  By next month we could see a lot of changes.

UPDATED: December 10, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Iowa State vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION Georgetown vs. Oregon State
MIDWEST REGION  SACRED HEART vs. PRAIRIE VIEW AM
WEST REGION MONTANA vs. NC A&T

MIDWEST Indianapolis EAST – New York                       
St. Louis Cleveland
1) LOUISVILLE 1) OHIO STATE
16) NC-AT / SACRED HEART 16) RADFORD
8) West Virginia 8) VCU
9) Penn State 9) Texas
Sacramento Sacramento
5) Arizona 5) SAN DIEGO STATE
12) WESTERN KENTUCKY 12) UNC-GREENSBORO
4) Kentucky 4) Washington
13) LIBERTY 13) YALE
St. Louis Greensboro
6) MEMPHIS 6) Villanova
11) Saint Mary’s 11) Iowa St / Arizona St
3) DAYTON 3) TENNESSEE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) VERMONT
Albany Greensboro
7) Florida 7) Seton Hall
10) DePaul 10) Indiana
2) Maryland 2) Duke
15) HOFSTRA 15) COLGATE
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Houston
Omaha Cleveland
1) KANSAS 1) Michigan
16) MONTANA / PV-AM 16) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
8) Stanford 8) LSU
9) Marquette 9) Colorado
Albany Omaha
5) Michigan State 5) North Carolina
12) BOWLING GREEN 12) NORTHERN IOWA
4) Virginia 4) Baylor
13) BELMONT 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Tampa Tampa
6) Purdue 6) Auburn
11) Oklahoma 11) Georgetown / Oregon St
3) BUTLER 3) Florida State
14) RIDER 14) GEORGIA STATE
Spokane Spokane
7) Utah State 7) Xavier
10) Creighton 10) Connecticut
2) GONZAGA 2) OREGON
15) UC-SANTA BARBARA 15) NEW MEXICO STATE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Creighton Georgetown Iowa Arkansas
Connecticut Arizona State Wichita State Virginia Tech
Saint Mary’s Oregon State NC State Houston
Oklahoma Iowa State Richmond Oklahoma State

Top Seed Line
Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Kansas

Breakdown by Conference …
Big East (8)
Big Ten (7)
Pac 12 (7)
BIG 12 (6)
SEC (5)
ACC (5)
West Coast (2)
American (2)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (2)

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.