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NBA AM: Porter Seeing Release from Washington

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Not only is Michael Porter, Jr. the best high school basketball player in the country, but he’s also currently entangled in quite a bit more drama than usual for a five-star recruit.

Porter, who on Wednesday was named the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year, had originally intended to play his college basketball at the University of Washington under Lorenzo Romar, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering Romar is Porter’s godfather. It also didn’t hurt that two months ago, Romar hired Michael Porter, Sr. as an assistant coach on his staff.

Now, those plans have been nixed following the firing of Romar last week after a 9-22 season with the Huskies, despite having potential number 1 overall NBA Draft pick Markelle Fultz on the roster. Porter already had signed a letter of intent, which means the only the way he can get out of playing at Washington next year is to be granted a release by the university or to sit out the full season. His younger brother Jontay, also a top prospect in the class of 2018, had verbally committed to Washington but did not sign a letter. He backed out of his verbal commitment almost immediately following Romar’s release.

This all begs the question: assuming Porter does get his release from the school, which seems likely since fellow Washington recruit Blake Harris was given his release from the school earlier in the week, where does that land the nation’s top player next season?

“With all these things that’s happened at Washington, that’s the question right now, but I’m trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter said in a conference call on Wednesday. “I’m not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore. I just want to get my NLI back and weigh my options and see the pros and cons of different schools and start new. I was connected to this coaching staff, and now that they’re gone I kind of want to reweigh my options.”

Most assume it will be the University of Missouri, where the Porter family originated. Porter admitted on Wednesday that he’d be asking for his release from Washington, and he understands the belief that he’ll end up in Columbia. Porter’s own thoughts on going back home have done plenty to fuel the fire.

“Ever since fifth grade that’s where I grew up,” Porter said. “That’s where I became the player I am today, so to be able to go back there, I know those fans are hungry and I’ve been shown a lot of love from Mizzou fans. It could be something real, real special to be able to come home and do my thing there.”

According to Porter, Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin has offered Porter, Sr. an assistant position on his staff, but the father hasn’t yet accepted the position so the son can make his decision free of any added pressure that assistant’s job might bring. Porter, Jr. insists that he and his father are not a package deal.

“My dad doesn’t know if he’s going to coach next season. He doesn’t know where he’s going to coach,” he said. “But it’s not a for sure thing that I would follow him wherever he goes. It does make sense if he goes to a big school, I do want to play under my dad, and it’s not him forcing me or anything. It’s that I trust my dad, I love my dad and I want to be close to family. That would be a great situation for me, but we’ll see how it plays out.”

Porter could have even more family with him should Jontay reclassify and join him at whatever school they end up attending.

“That’s something [Jontay] is highly considering,” Porter said. “He’s definitely considering classing up to play with me because we feel like we play well together. We feed off of each other, so that would be cool to play with each other at the next level. Even if he doesn’t class up there’s nothing saying that I won’t stay two years to play with him.”

In other words, one firing at Washington likely will send the first ranked overall prospect and his brother, the 26th ranked prospect in next year’s class, to an entirely different university. That’s a pretty significant power shift considering the overwhelming majority of top prospects already have committed to schools.

It’s not good for Washington, but it looks incredibly promising for Mizzou, though Porter said Wednesday that Oklahoma and Virginia both were still in the mix, as well.

One thing’s for sure: finding a school has been anything but easy for nation’s top reruit.

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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.