COLUMBIA, Mo. – After former Missouri forward and Columbia native Jontay Porter wasn’t selected in the NBA Draft Thursday night, reports didn’t immediately surface of him signing with a team.
Other undrafted standouts such as Arizona State’s Lu Dort and LSU’s Naz Reid found homes with the Thunder and Timberwolves respectively, but the 19-year-old Porter’s destination hadn’t become public nearly 24 hours after the two-round, 60-pick draft had concluded.
Porter, who stands 6-foot-11, is free to sign with any of the league’s 30 teams as an unrestricted free agent.
Porter was widely-speculated to be a second-round draft pick heading into the draft after tearing his ACL twice since October. Without those setbacks, Porter was viewed as a for-sure first-rounder last summer and early fall.
“Of course, if he’s healthy, in my opinion, he’s a lottery pick,” Missouri head men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters Friday morning. ... “This situation is unique from the standpoint nobody questioned if he’s healthy, where he would be as far as being a draft prospect, no question about it, first rounder, just a matter of probably how high.”
Added Martin: “With injuries and when you have multiple surgeries of the magnitude of which he’s had, I think that would probably be the only question mark from a basketball standpoint. He understands the game. He knows how to play the game. He has a great feel for the game. He’s a good person. He’s a good locker-room guy. He has all those qualities.”
Martin added he hadn’t spoken with Porter, his family or his agent as of Friday morning.
Martin also said he wouldn’t “shut down” Porter returning to the team in some capacity despite not having a scholarship to devote to the former Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team member and Co-Sixth Man of the Year in the league in 2017-2018.
However, a proposed National Basketball Players Association rule allowing undrafted players to return to school hasn’t taken effect yet, although it was ratified by the NCAA.
Porter’s last day to be eligible to return to Missouri was May 29, 10 days after the conclusion of the NBA Combine.
Martin rewarded his 13th and final scholarship for the 2019-2020 season to junior-college transfer Axel Okongo on June 10.
Martin added it’s possible Porter has committed to an NBA franchise even without it being reported.
Porter is the younger brother of former Tiger and current Denver Nugget Michael Porter Jr., and second of five Porter brothers.
Jontay Porter spent his first two high school seasons at Tolton. As a sophomore, he was a part of the Trailblazers’ Class 3 boys basketball state championship team.
Tolton head boys basketball coach Jeremy Osborne said it was a little surprising to not hear Porter’s name called Thursday.
“He’s definitely an NBA player, he’s come a ways,” Osborne said about Porter. “Every year, he’s added something to his game and its continued to get better and to be the level of player that he is, you have to do that. I think it’s just another step in the road. It’s probably not the path that he had planned ... he’s worked hard enough to be there and he’ll get there.”
For his junior high school season, the Porters moved to Seattle and were coached by former NBA All-Star Brandon Roy and won another state championship.
Porter was a unanimous five-star prospect and coming out of high school and reclassified to the Class of 2017 to join his older brother and father, Michael Porter Sr., a Tigers’ assistant coach, at Missouri.
Porter averaged 9.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 blocks and shot 36 percent 3-point range as a college freshman.
“Everybody saw his body transformation from even his freshman year of college to his sophomore year, so you know that he’s been working,” Osborne added. “You saw the byproduct of it I think his freshman season and then the way he looked in the little preseason scrimmage.”
Porter visited Tolton after his first ACL tear last fall a few times to watch two of his younger brothers, Coban and Jevon, play under Osborne for Tolton.
Osborne believes Jontay Porter’s versatility is what separates him not only from his brothers, but most front-court athletes.
“He’s a center that can do more than what most can,” Osborne said. ”(He’s a) very good shooter, decision-maker, playmaker, rebounds the ball well, a very good shot blocker. He’s got a unique skill set for someone of his size and he’s a very smart basketball player.”