Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. is making quite a name for himself. I'm sure even the most optimistic Hoyas' fans are a bit surprised by the poise shown by the true freshman from rural Southeast Missouri.
After all, Porter Jr. was a relative unknown coming out of tiny Scott County Central High School, a small public school with an enrollment of 108 students. On top of that, he didn't play AAU ball.
So how good could he really be playing against all of that "small school competition"?
All Porter Jr. has done so far is prove that if you are a good enough player, then the college scouts will find you. For all the people that watched Porter Jr. grow up, all those people who still call him "Bubba," it's really not a surprise he is playing this well.
Full disclosure: I've known Otto Porter Jr. since he was about 11 years old. I actually coached him for two years, and he lived at the end of my street. We rode to school together almost every day for two years.
So count me as one of the people that call him Bubba, one of the people that saw this coming, and most of all, count me as a biased Otto Porter Jr. fan.
I've known his father, Otto Sr., and his uncles since I was in grade school. You see, I'm also from Scott County Central High School, and you can't understand how "Bubba" Porter became the player he is today without understanding the history of Scott County Central High School.
It all starts with his father.
Otto Porter Sr. graduated from Scott County Central in 1976, when he led the tiny school to a 32-1 record and its first ever state championship. Along the way, the 6'4'' Porter, a smooth shooter who loved playing on the baseline, scored 143 points in the four-game state tournament series (still a record in Missouri), and grabbed 45 rebounds at the Final Four (a state record that stood for years), including 25 rebounds in the state finals (a state record the stood for years).
Otto Sr. would be the first in a long line of Porters to star for the SCC Braves, as the boys' team would rack up a Missouri record 15 state titles, and the girls' teams would rack up a Missouri record seven state titles.
After Otto Sr., along came little brother Melvin, who was a star on the 1979 and 1980 back-to-back state champions, a team so dominant they were dubbed "The Show Me Kings." The 1980 Braves beat Slater 94-52 in the state championship game. Slater had a seven-footer by the name of Joe Kline on that team who would go on to be the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft.
The Braves' tallest player that year, Donnie McClinton, was 6'2''.
After Melvin came Calvin, who played on the 1983 state champions. After Calvin came baby brother Jerry, who was on four state championship teams in a row (1986-1989). Jerry burst onto the scene as a freshman in 1986 when he hit a shot at the buzzer to send the state championship game into overtime. The Braves would go on to defeat Wellsville in triple overtime, with Jerry Porter becoming the unlikely hero.
After Jerry came Mark Mosely, the son of Daisy Porter, Otto's little sister. Mark was the starting point guard for the Braves in 1990 and 1991 when they won the state championship. The 1991 title marked the Braves' seventh straight state championship.
That is only half of the story about Otto Porter Jr. I still haven't told you about his mother, Elnora Timmons.
The Timmons' are the yin to the Porters' yang at SCC. If you look at all those great teams the Braves had, you will find both families' names littered throughout the history books.
There was Mayfield Timmons, who also starred on the "Show Me Kings" of 1979 and 1980. Then along came Anthony "Moon" Timmons, who scored 47 points in the 1983 state championship game (a record that stood for years). Then Dean Timmons was on the 1985 state championship team.
The girls could play too, with Elnora and her sister Decarol also racking up state titles on the girls' side.
Uncle Marcus Timmons was the most dominant of the Timmons' boys, starting on four consecutive state championship teams from 1988-1991. During those four years, the 6'8'' Timmons led the Braves to a 132-3 mark (34-0, 31-2, 32-1, 33-0) and was named "Mr. Show Me Basketball," the award given to the top player in the state of Missouri.
Marcus Timmons was all set to go to Mizzou, but with probation hanging over the Tigers' head, he chose nearby Southern Illinois University, where he started every game in his career except one. After college, Marcus Timmons was invited to several NBA training camps, and he eventually settled on a long, successful career overseas.
The Porter family had a member on the Braves' first 11 state championship teams. It wasn't until 1993 that the school won a state title without a Porter on the roster.
From 1995-2006, the school's basketball program fell on hard times. In 2008 the school finally broke through and made it back to the Final Four, finishing third in the state. The rebirth of the SCC dynasty was no coincidence. Otto Porter Jr. was a freshman on that 2008 team. Bobby Hatchett, the son of Mark Mosely (nephew of the Porters) was the point guard. Drew Thomas, the son of Mary Timmons, was a junior shooting guard.
The Timmons' and Porters' were back, and so were the Braves.
In 2009 the Braves won the state championship game 98-63. They followed that up with two more state championships in 2010 and 2011, with Otto Jr. leading the way. During that three-peat, the Braves' starting lineup featured only three players that were not a Porter or a Timmons.
Along the way, Otto Jr. set the all time career scoring record at the Final Four, and he broke all of his dad's rebounding records, too. His junior year, Otto Jr. grabbed 36 rebounds in the state finals.
Take that, dad. The family tradition had come full circle.
It's just how the Porter boys were raised. To these boys, basketball is just a way of life, something that is more religion than sport. Every Sunday afternoon, and several nights per week, you can find Jerry, Otto Sr and several other SCC alumni playing at the old high school gym.
All of the younger Porter boys would be in there also, getting beat on by these grown men. I've watched as a 12-year-old Otto Jr tried to guard a 32-year-old man that was a two-time all state player in high school, and if Otto Jr let him score, he was going to hear about it when he got home.
If Otto Jr's team lost, and it caused one of the uncles to have to sit out a game...
You don't even want to know what happened after that. John Thompson III can't give a tongue lashing like Uncle Jerry. I promise you that.
So Otto Porter Jr. didn't travel around the country playing a bunch of meaningless AAU games. Hey, I've been to Vegas and watched the Adidas Big Time. I've seen those 9:00 a.m. games, you know, the ones where it is the kids' seventh game in 36 hours, and none of them are playing hard.
Yeah, Otto Jr. missed out on that. He was too busy shooting jumpers, playing games back at home that meant something. I tried to explain this to a friend of mine, "Every game Bubba played on Sunday afternoon, it mattered if they won or lost."
That is not the case on the AAU circuit.
So no, Otto Porter Jr. didn't fly all over the country getting his butt kissed by coaches that were afraid to make him mad. He was too busy getting his butt kicked by his cousins and uncles. He was too busy playing hard, not wanting to lose, because losing meant you had to sit out.
I guess that's why I just smiled when I read this quote from John Thompson III:
“He is the most prepared freshman that I’ve coached,” Thompson III said. “Mentally, physically, emotionally ... just being prepared to compete at this level in a way that most freshmen are not. A lot of freshmen don’t understand how to compete at this level. But he walked in the door knowing how to compete.”
Competing is the only thing Otto Porter Jr. knows how to do.
After all, we do get ESPN down here in rural Southeast Missouri. So Bubba knows his dad and Uncle Jerry are watching, and he knows if he takes a play off that he will hear all about it when he gets home.
That's just the SCC way. That's the Porter way.