- Michael Porter Jr.'s pledge to Missouri set off a chain reaction of recruiting victories for the Tigers that have the potential to transform last season's last place team into an SEC contender.
It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We begin with the No. 1 overall recruit, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr.
What he means for Missouri’s recruiting class
It’s hard to overstate the impact of Porter’s pledge to the Tigers—and not just because he’s the consensus No. 1 overall recruit. Porter’s talent alone is obviously a huge addition, but just look at what coach Cuonzo Martin has accomplished on the recruiting trail since he landed Porter. Four-star guard C.J. Roberts reaffirmed his commitment to Missouri after initially pledging under since-fired coach Kim Anderson. Then four-star guard Blake Harris followed Porter’s lead by decommitting from Washington to join the Tigers. Three-point threat Kassius Robertson, a grad transfer from Canisius, opted for Missouri in early May, followed by the grand finale, center Jeremiah Tilmon, the No. 39 overall recruit in the class of 2017.
How much of this happens without Porter’s commitment? It’s impossible to know, but the safe bet is that Missouri’s class is nowhere near the No. 7 ranking it currently sports, the Tigers’ highest-ranked recruiting class since 2010.
How he fits
A player as skilled as Porter immediately becomes the focal point of the offense. Missouri likely only has one year with Porter before he leaves for the NBA, but expect him to put on quite a show in that time. The 6’10”, 214-pounder has the size to play down low but can also shoot from outside and create his own shot. He should become one of the top scorers in college basketball this season.
Porter’s versatility gives Missouri plenty of options. Returning point guard Terrence Phillips will look to get Porter the ball in positions to score, but the attention Porter draws should create opportunities for fellow forwards Jordan Barnett and Kevin Puryear, Robertson on the outside or Tilmon down low. The biggest question for Missouri, and the biggest challenge for Martin, will be how to integrate the new, young talent to a squad that returns its top three scorers from last season.
After last season's Tigers went 8–24, including a 2–16 mark in SEC play, we know Missouri will be better this season. The question is how much better? Anything less than an NCAA tournament berth would be a disappointment for a squad that gains this much talent and loses no major contributors from last season. Bovada even gives the Tigers the eighth best odds of winning the NCAA tournament. That may be a bit high, but don't be surprised if Missouri joins Kentucky and Florida in the top tier of the conference.
One thing that could further boost Missouri’s prospects is the possible early arrival of Porter’s younger brother, Jontay Porter. The five-star forward is currently part of the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class, but Martin still holds one scholarship for the 2017–18 season and the younger Porter has been considering reclassifying. Jontay is expected to make his decision after this week’s Peach Jam.