Otto Porter on his NBA Draft decision
The Hoyas entered the 2012-13 season unranked, Otto Porter Jr. in the shadows of the nation's elite prospects. Both the team and player ended up reaching unexpected heights. With every win pushing Georgetown toward an eventual share of the Big East regular season title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the sophomore forward's national profile and draft stock scaled another rung.
Though the team failed in its attempt to hurdle postseason demons, Porter's starry performance throughout the season ensured a realistic jump into the NBA draft lottery if desired. Sitting next to Georgetown coach John Thompson III at a press conference held at McDonough Arena on Monday afternoon, Porter announced forgoing his final two years of eligibility to enter the 2013 NBA Draft was indeed his desire.
"The toughest part was knowing you're going to leave a great place like this," said Porter, the first Hoya named an AP first-team All-American since Allen Iverson in 1996. "I love this place."
The unanimous Big East Player of the Year is an expected lottery pick in the upcoming draft. Some projections put Porter as a top-5 overall selection.
Even though the lottery talk persisted throughout the year, Porter said he put off truly pondering the decision until after the season - and several days after the stunning loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA Tournament.
"It took a long time," Porter said. "I didn't want to rush anything."
"A lot of people come into this as players with the attitude, with the notion that I want to leave as soon as possible," Thompson said. "They walk in the door thinking about walking out the door. That's never been the case with him."
The 6-foot-8 Porter, who longtime Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim this year called the "best all-around player I've seen in this league," led the Hoyas in scoring (16.2) rebounds (7.5), steals (1.8) plus free throw (77.7) and 3-point shooting (42.2). He also ranked second on the team in blocked shots (0.9 bpg), third in assists (2.7 apg) and racked up seven double-doubles including the NCAA Tournament loss to Florida Gulf Coast.
His defining moment and true spike in national awareness came in Georgetown's final Big East regular season game held at Syracuse. Porter blasted the Orange with 33 points, five steals and five 3-pointers in a 57-46 win at the Carrier Dome. The Hoyas No. 22 scored in double figures 27 times including eight games with at least 20 points.
Porter said there was no singular moment during the season that had him thinking it's time for the NBA. Same for his coach, though that's because Thompson entered the season believing this moment at this time could come. The sophomore's strong play throughout the season did not sway that opinion.
"I think he's ready, mentally, emotionally as it relates to basketball," Thompson said. "I thought he went about the process in an educated manner. He didn't make a rush decision one way or another. He had two good choices."
Georgetown closed the regular season winning 12 of 13 games, including a celebratory 61-39 romp over Syracuse at the Verizon Center. The Hoyas finished the season with a 25-7 record and 14-4 in the Big East, tying them with eventual National Champion Louisville and Marquette.
Overlooked by the conference coaches for the Big East All-freshman team, Porter's sophomore campaign included becoming the first player in 10 years to be named Big East Player of the Week in three straight weeks. Porter also was named a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith awards.
Porter's skill set goes beyond numbers and his poised on-court manner epitomizes the John Wooden quote, "be quick, but don't be in a hurry." The soft-spoken forward is blessed with solid basketball instincts and workman-like attitude. Even if his adjustment to the NBA as a scorer is a slow one, these traits should help Porter contribute immediately.
"He's honest with himself," Thompson about Porter readying himself for the NBA. "Some guys you say, 'hey you have to work on this thing" and they're like 'l'm nice coach.' He's been blessed in that he can do so many things well. So he now has the responsibility to do so many things well."
The Missouri native shined throughout the season, but grabbed the spotlight during Big East play. After Georgetown lost its opening two conference games and then second-leading scorer Greg Whittington due to an academic suspension, Porter increased his production and assertiveness especially during the Hoyas 11-game winning streak. He averaged 18.1 points in Big East games.
Though losing Porter is a blow for the Hoyas 2013-14 campaign, Georgetown is expected to return all other core players. Whittington could return as well and UCLA transfer Josh Smith may be available at some point next season. Thompson offered no definitive response, but said he anticipates both of them for next season.
Porter would be a strong fit the potentially small forward-needing Washington Wizards, though they might need some lottery luck in order to move high enough to grab him. Chad Ford's mock draft on ESPN slots Porter with the fourth overall pick while DraftExpress ranks him as the No. 8 overall prospect. Without any change in order, the Wizards would likely pick in the 8-9 range.
Collectively the 2013 draft is not considered a strong class due to lack of star power at the top, though Porter said that aspect did not factor into his decision, one that sends him on his next journey.
"It's been a quick two years," Thompson said, "but he's much different person sitting here right now than he was when he got on the bus to go to the airport to China a couple of years ago."