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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Thursday / April 26.
  • How Michael Porter Jr. Can Help Save Lorenzo Romar’s Career at Washington

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    SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Lorenzo Romar’s seat at Washington is so hot that some folks in the Twittersphere are calling for him to be fired before next season arrives.

    Romar has the projected No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft in Markelle Fultz, and yet the Huskies (9-9, 2-4 Pac-12) don’t have anything close to an NCAA Tournament résumé at this point.

    If Fultz misses the NCAAs and then goes No. 1 in the Draft, it would mark the second straight season the top pick missed the Dance after LSU’s Ben Simmons did so last year.

    With Michael Porter Jr. coming in next season, it’s at least theoretically possible that the No. 1 pick could miss the NCAA Tournament three years running if the Huskies were to fail to qualify in 2018, too.

    The 6-foot-10, 220-pound Porter Jr. has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant and Paul George, and his virtuoso 36-point, 5-rebound, 4-assist performance for unbeaten Nathan Hale (14-0) against famed Oak Hill Academy on Monday at the Hoophall Classic did nothing to dissuade those perceptions.

    Porter Jr. is aware of all the speculation surrounding Romar and Washington, but he believes strongly that the 2017-18 version of the Huskies will be an NCAA Tournament-type team.

    “I look at it as an opportunity to do something special,” he said at the Hoophall. “You could go to Kentucky, Duke, one of those schools and be another great, or you could go to school at Washington and do what you can to try to help turn that program around. I think Coach Romar, people are on his head on Twitter but I think if you look at their team, it’s not like they have talent top to bottom.

    “But I look at it as an opportunity to go in there. We have a great [recruiting] class. [Point guard Blake] Harris is a monster. [Shooting guards] Daejon [Davis], Jaylen Nowell, those are my guys, they’re pretty good.”

    As reported here earlier this week, Jontay Porter, Michael’s 6-9 younger brother who is committed to Washington for 2018, is also considering enrolling this summer to play alongside his brother in what will likely be Michael’s only season on campus.

    “It’s not [just] me,” Michael said in reference to Washington’s incoming class.

    He speaks regularly with Fultz, with whom he won a gold medal last summer on the USA U18 team.

    “We’re in the gym a lot together,” Porter Jr. said. “He wants to win, he’s a winner, but at the same time he’s just doing what he can as well to help that team.”

    On Wednesday night, Fultz went off for 37 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks as Washington fended off Colorado, 85-83 in overtime.

    Asked if Fultz was frustrated, Porter Jr. said, “Yeah, I mean I think any player that wants to win is going to be frustrated with all the losses but they go to practice every day and work hard and just try to get better and make the most of the season.”

    Because he is home-schooled, Porter Jr. is around campus a lot this season.

    He said he attended Nathan Hale for a week at the start of the season “and then I bounced.”

    Now he and Jontay spend a couple hours a day doing schoolwork, and have the rest of the day to lift, practice and spend time with family.

    “Home school’s been a better fit for us, we get to wake up basically whenever we want,” Porter Jr. said.  “On a regular day I probably wake up 9:30-10, eat breakfast, start school around 10:30, do school work for about an hour and 15 minutes and then around 12 or 12:30 I lift at UW. Go get my lift on. And then I finish school for about 45 minutes.  And then I got the est of the day off to just chill, do whatever I want with my brothers and sisters until practice, which usually is at 3:30-5:30. And then I don’t have any homework after I do my schoolwork at home so I can go back to the gym at night or hang out at home. So, man, life is good.”

    Porter Jr. is currently projected as the No. 5 pick in 2018 by, but he figures to be in the mix for the possible No. 1 spot along with Arizona-bound big man DeAndre Ayton.

    That has already inspired Tank Slogans such as “Put your house in disorder for Michael Porter” and “Sleep through the fourth quarter for Michael Porter.”

    Porter Jr. said he embraces the comparisons to Durant.

    “Yeah, I do, too,” he said of hearing the comparisons. “Recently, it’s been more like Tracy McGrady back in the day. I’ve gotten that a lot. Paul George sometimes. But KD’s always in there. Just the bigger wings. I like to say I have my own game, but yeah. Kind of like Brandon but more explosive, so it’s kind of like an in-between thing. I wouldn’t like to label myself as one player, like KD or like Tracy McGrady, but those are some comparisons.”

    Brandon would be first-year Nathan Hale coach Brandon Roy, the three-time NBA All-Star who last played in 2013. Roy took over a Nathan Hale team that finished 3-18 a year ago. The school initially wasn’t an option for the Porters, but when they moved from Missouri to Seattle after Michael Porter Sr. was hired by Romar at Washington, they liked the idea of playing for Roy.

    “When we heard that Brandon was maybe going to take the job, we were like hold up,” Porter Jr., said, adding that they were initially considering other Seattle schools like Garfield and Rainier Beach. “So my dad got on the phone with him and they talked and it turns out he took the job. And the whole coaching staff was a new coaching staff and we thought Nathan Hale would be a great fit for us. So we came up here knowing that they were going to be coaches. We weren’t going to go unless he got the job.”

    Now Porter Jr. is getting advice and training from a former NBA All-Star.

    “I mean, it’s a lot of knowledge so we all feel blessed, I know that,” he said. “He’s a player coach so we do a lot of skill work, he gives us a lot of NBA stuff to do at practice so it’s good.”

    For his part, Roy couldn’t believe his luck that he landed two 6-10 guys in Michael and Jontay when he took the job, and says Michael is well ahead of where he was at that stage of his career.

    “He’s by far better than I was, and in so many areas,” Roy said. “He shoots it like a pro already. He can handle it. His work ethic is ridiculous. I have to tell him sometimes, ‘Hey, Mike, resting is a skill, too. You gotta know when to go, when to save it.’ He’s lifting weights two days a week, he’s really regimented.

    “You watch him day-to-day, there’s no way in heck I can coach another player like him, it just doesn’t happen. I’m going to enjoy it.”

    Jamaal Williams, who attended Washington and is now a volunteer assistant under Roy, said Roy’s knowledge will benefit Porter Jr.

    “I think about being willing to trust your teammates,” Williams said. “Mike has an ability that’s so overwhelmingly good that he sometimes he feels like he can do everything himself. And Brandon being the way he played, being a facilitator first, get his second, he tells him you can trust those guys early to make it easier on yourself later. That’s something he’s really been trying to teach him, you don’t have to be the hero on every possession.”

    Roy called Porter’s upside “tremendous.”

    “I think he’s gonna be like an NBA superstar. I think he’s going to be the face of the NBA. I know it’s big shoes and it’s early, but I think he’s going to be like that Kevin Durant, that Steph Curry, that James Harden.”

    Roy said he encourages parents to take their young children to see Porter Jr. now, like the fans at the Hoophall were able to do on Monday.

    “That’s the biggest message I give parents,” Roy said. “‘If you have a young kid, take him now for $6 to go see him. In 10 years, you’re going to say, [I saw him].'”

    Next year Washington fans will get to see Porter Jr. up close, when he will be in prime position to save Lorenzo Romar and send him to his first NCAA Tournament since 2011.


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.