For the first time in 17 years, the Missouri Tigers are playing in the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Check out the rosters, and you’ll find one surname listed five times: Porter.
There are the brothers likely bound for the NBA, Michael Porter Jr. and Jontay; sisters Cierra Porter, a junior forward, and graduate assistant Bri Porter; and the patriarch, Michael Porter Sr., an assistant coach for the men’s team.
While Mizzou Arena was the likely place to find all of them this season, either playing or on the sidelines, Bri Porter says the siblings are all over campus.
“It’s so fun to be able to text siblings, like, ‘Do you want to get coffee real quick?’ Or run into them coming in and out of the class,” she says, adding, “Me and Tay (Jontay) had a class last semester in the same building, so I got to see him every day at school. That was just so fun. Unprecedented.”
A year ago, no one anticipated the Porter family, from Columbia, would have such an outsized influence at Mizzou — especially the sisters.
“I always knew I’d play with my sister,” Bri Porter says, “but never in my wildest dreams did I think my brothers would be here, too. So this has been a surprise, but we have enjoyed how it’s unfolded.”
The consolidation started with men’s coach Cuonzo Martin, who was hired a year ago. At the time, Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant at Washington, where Porter Jr. — the top high school prospect in the country — was committed to play for his godfather, Lorenzo Romar.
But Romar was fired, Martin hired Porter Sr. as an assistant, Porter Jr. said he wouldn’t stick with the Huskies and the rumors began.
Bri Porter says the buzz on campus was loud and immediate: “Everyone was asking me and Cierra about it. It was unfolding day-by-day for us, too.”
Mizzou didn’t make Porter Sr. available for an interview about how his sons became Tigers, despite repeated requests. But USA Today recently reported that the elder Porter is making $375,000 a year in his new position.
And it’s not the first time Porter Sr. has coached at Mizzou. He had worked with the women’s team for six years — three years as director of operations and three years as assistant coach. His boss was his sister-in-law, Robin Pingeton, whose team is 24-7 entering Saturday’s NCAA Tournament game against Florida Gulf Coast and finished the regular season ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll.
As for the men’s team, they have a 20-12 record ahead of Friday night’s NCAA Tournament game against Florida State. It was a record they earned without Porter Jr., who played the season opener and then was sidelined after having back surgery until the SEC Tournament.
Jontay had even finished high school early with hopes of playing a full season with his brother. But he became someone Mizzou could lean on for scoring, rebounding and shot blocking this season, and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
The kids get their skills from their parents: Lisa Porter played at Iowa and then professionally overseas; Michael Sr. played at the University of New Orleans.
And there are four younger Porters, all of whom play ball. But Cierra Porter says that’s not all they do.
“If you look at each individual kid, we all have different hobbies aside from basketball, too,” she says. “But obviously the main one, the thing that takes most of our time is basketball.”
When she looks back at this season, she knows it’s been unusual.
“I guess from an outside perspective, having five people from the same family in one program, it’s kind of ridiculous. It doesn’t really happen,” she said with a laugh.
The oldest four Porter siblings don’t figure to be at the same school much longer. Experts project Michael Jr. and Jontay will be NBA draft picks this year, and Bri is hoping to land an internship at NASA.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.