Before we get to the substance of this post, a few issues. First, from all indications the Darnell Gant visit went very well. A person who follows West Coast recruiting told me that now Gant “had some things to think about” which is good news from a Kentucky perspective. I am not sure how Gant fits into the overall picture and whether he is a realistic option, but Tubby is covering his bases and Gant’s recruitment certainly cannot hurt. UPDATE: I spoke to Darnell myself just a few moments ago. Said he liked his visit and that it was a good time. Said he still has two visits to take (Cal and Nevada) and then he would make his decision. I asked him if he could see himself going across the country for school and he commented, “maybe or maybe not.” Fairly non-responsive, but I think he has been put through the mill today from UK, Washington and Oregon interviews and was just tired. Will be on the show this Sunday.
Second, I was surprised to see my Patrick Patterson post turn into a Tubby debate (although maybe I shouldnt have been). My point about the Patterson’s concern about fan reaction to Tubby is not new or unique…it has been stated by many who have interviewed them. Whether you think it rational or not, it is true. Hopefully whatever concerns they have will be alleviated by Midnight Madness, but in order not to perpetuate them, I reset the comments on the page yesterday when it got a bit out of hand. Finally, we tape Episode 8 of Kentucky Sports Radio tomorrow. We hope to have at least one 07 recruit on the air, a South Carolina preview and some other tidbits. Look for it Thursday afternoon.
Now onto the topic at hand. That young man you see up there has become the whisper sensation of the summer so far. Summer reports from those who watch pickup games are notoriously misleading. Whether it is Josh Carrier’s three point shooting or Jules Camara’s post moves, those who see only pickup games often misread how skills translate to the team game. However there is another type of summer buzz….that seen by people who watch the team play consistently during the season in practice and thus have a standard upon which to compare performances. When those people talk, I usually listen because their comments both good (I remember when people said to watch for Gerald Fitch) and bad (the early Bernard Cote and Brandon Stockton reports were putrid) tend to have some connection to future performance.
This year, whereas early summer reports were that Jared Carter was looking better and showing signs of life, the new “it” reports are coming from the “Who Dis?” recruit of the 06 class, Michael Porter. I have spoken with multiple people who have seen the team working out and all had mentioned to me at some point that they were “surprised with what they had seen from Porter.” However this weekend I spoke with someone who sees the Cats multiple times each week and his reports were even more glowing.
According to him, Michael Porter has become “the defensive shutdown player on this year’s roster.” Porter is comfortable running the point on the second team and the battles between him and Ramel Bradley are “some of the highlights of the summer.” Porter has quickly established himself as a kid who will back down from no challenge and he has become “the unofficial leader” of the freshman guys. This same source told me that the freshman class as a whole is very close knit and that Porter deserves a lot of credit for that. “He has formed a relationship with each of the players and he is sort of the glue that brings them all together.”
While some of the accolades this early on do surprise me a bit, the fact that Porter is set to be a contributor at UK does not. Many were quick to dismiss Porter due to his early signing and the fact that he resembled a UK bust recruit of last year, Adam Williams, as a highly athletic, lowly ranked Caucasian freak athlete coach’s son that was “under the radar.” And while those surface similarities could be unsettling, those who looked farther inward know that Porter and Williams were always on very different paths. Porter, while not highly ranked, also did not participate in the AAU circuit, thus making his status a bit of a mystery as most recruiting rankings (which will be analyzed in a few days to break down some of the mystery of how they are put together) left him out. However Porter was always a special athlete (as opposed to simply a leaper like Williams), as seen by the decision of USC to offer him a football scholarship. When you take a kid being recruited for an athletic position (in this case safety) from Pete Carroll, you know you have special gifts.
But the biggest difference is that from the moment Adam Williams was on campus the “whisper campaign” was that he was out of his element. From an early date, all indications from Memorial were that Adam simply could not keep up and was not in the ballpark of being able to contribute. In Porter’s case, the whisper campaign has become exactly the opposite. It began a month or so ago when I would hear that Porter would “contribute at UK before it was all done” to a few weeks ago when it was “hey he may even get in some games this year” to now when people are starting to wonder if he might even crack the rotation. Michael Porter was always assumed to be an afterthought in this class, and now all of a sudden, among those following the team at this very early stage, he is being thrown into the mix with potential playing time…..that is quite a change.
Will Porter be a superstar this year? Probably not. Will he become a solid part of the rotation…..maybe, although the odds are still somewhat against him. But will he be a significant player during his Kentucky career…..if you asked that question a few months ago, many would have said no…..but if summer buzz is any indication, the answer is becoming a solid yes.