Missouri’s Jontay Porter opts out of NBA Draft, will return for sophomore season

After declaring for the draft in April, the SEC co-sixth man of the year won’t hire an agent and will return to the Tigers for another season.
Jontay Porter boxes out Kansas guard Lagerald Vick on Oct. 22 during the Showdown for Relief.

When Missouri freshman Jontay Porter declared for the NBA Draft on April 5, he left behind a safety valve. It left Tiger fans with hope.

So when coach Cuonzo Martin left one scholarship unfilled through the heat of the recruiting circuit, the 18-year-old forward could be left with a way out — a way back.

Porter has withdrawn his name from the 2018 NBA Draft and will return to the Missouri men’s basketball program for his sophomore season, the team confirmed in a press release on Wednesday afternoon.

“We are excited that Jontay will return,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said in the release. “He had a great experience going through the pre-Draft process, got the feedback that he needed to do what is best for him and he will learn from it to improve in all areas of his game. Jontay has the potential to make a big jump from his freshman season and he’ll be a great leader for us on and off the court next year.”

A team spokesperson indicated the announcement was incoming after the team Twitter account posted a three-second video of Porter smiling and winking in his Missouri jersey.

Porter’s option to back out of the draft and return to Missouri was possible because he did not hire an agent when he initially declared in April. The maneuver, one commonly utilized by basketball players who declare before their senior year, allows them to retain NCAA eligibility while participating in pre-draft workouts.

Players who planned to return had until May 30 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard time to notify the NBA and their school’s athletic director in writing of their decision. The draft will take place on June 21.

Porter was named Southeastern Conference co-sixth man of the year in 2017-18 and was an SEC all-freshman team honoree. The 6-foot-11 forward averaged 9.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for Missouri despite starting in only seven games.

In a statement issued by the team after he declared in April, Porter had said: “While I am not making any final decisions at this point, I am not hiring an agent and will be diligent in complying with all NCAA rules to ensure that I maintain my eligibility to compete at the NCAA level for Mizzou in the future.”

Porter interviewed and worked out with several NBA teams. He also attended the mid-May draft scouting combine in Chicago. There, he had the highest body fat percentage (13.65 percent) of all those tested and recorded the weakest max vertical leap. But he opted out of participating in the combine’s 5-on-5 scrimmages, indicating at the time that his draft stock may still have been safer without competing.

Ahead of the 60-pick draft, projections on Porter’s stock ranged from mid-first round well into the second. His skill as a passer and prowess as a spot-up shooter were his greatest selling points at the combine, reflecting the trend of big men who can play multiple positions, but scouts saw room for improvement in athleticism. He was the youngest player at the combine (he won’t turn 19 until November) and, among the other poor results, finished last in the three-quarter sprint run, bringing up concern over his ability to run the floor and defend.

That youth also presented perks in returning to Missouri for another year. The 2019 draft is already expected to be significantly weaker than this year’s, so many think another season of improvement at the college level could land a more-in-shape Porter in a lottery pick situation next June.

Since he reclassified in high school to graduate a year early and play with his brother last season, he will still be the age of other one-and-done freshmen entering the 2019 draft but with the benefit of one more year of college experience.

Missouri’s 2018-19 roster now appears complete as Porter’s return eliminates the last scholarship Martin had to offer ahead of this season. In the time since Porter declared, the Tigers have signed three-star Xavier Pinson, Illinois transfer Mark Smith and Evansville transfer Dru Smith.

That left them with room for one more. With Porter at the time presumptively not coming back, Martin went full-throttle on two potential 2018 recruits. But Courtney Ramey and Blake Hinson both chose other schools after including Missouri in their final cuts.

Porter is expected to become a regular starter this season, joining fellow rising sophomore and big man Jeremiah Tilmon in what could be one of the most imposing frontcourts in the SEC.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

Share: Facebook / Twitter / Google+

Article comments


This item does not have any approved comments yet.

Post a comment

Please provide a full name for all comments. We don't post obscene, offensive or pure hate speech.