Previously Unheralded Kevin Porter Jr. Looks To Show He Belongs With USA Basketball
The future USC Trojan is taking his shot at the U18 National Team
Kevin Porter Jr. will forgive you if you think he plays with a chip on his shoulder.
He does. And he’ll be the first one to admit it.
Porter, a shooting guard/small forward from Seattle, was a late invite to the 33-player camp that will determine the 12-member USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team competing at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, June 11-17 in St. Catharines, Ontario.
“I’m not just about showing I belong, but that I’m one of the best here,” Porter said of the three-day selection camp that runs May 31-June 2 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Porter, who turned 18 in May, wasn’t invited to the McDonald’s All-American Game or the Jordan Brand Classic, and he wasn’t selected for the USA Junior National Select Team that competed in the Nike Hoop Summit, which featured the top U.S. high school seniors against a World Select Team of Under-19 players.
If Porter was overlooked for some of the big, national high school showcase events, though, he wasn’t an afterthought for a scout team of mostly former NCAA Division I players that scrimmaged the USA Basketball Nike Hoop Summit team at the Portland Trail Blazers practice facility.
Observers there called him nearly unstoppable on offense, scoring from the inside and outside, and at one point over 7-foot-2 Bol Bol.
“(Nike Hoop Summit organizer) Reggie Walker invited me to play against them, and I think my performance stood out,” Porter said. “I definitely feel I belong after that.”
That definitely put the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder on USA Basketball’s radar.
“The one thing we weren’t real sure about was his birth date,” said USA Basketball Men’s National Team Director Samson Kayode. “He’s grown and matured, and we were able to see that when he was on our Hoop Summit practice squad team.
“I got to spend some time with him then, and he’s a really great kid. When we found out he was a 2000 (birthyear) kid, we wanted to jump on it. He’s really locked in on this opportunity.”
Porter is ranked as the No. 54 prospect in the country by ESPN and No. 14 by Rivals.com. The future USC Trojan is known as yet another in a long line of dynamos from Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, the launching ground for Jamal Crawford, Dejounte Murray, C.J. Giles, Doug Christie, Nate Robinson and Terrence Williams.
“My freshman year in high school, I was just a shooter,” Porter admitted. “My athleticism wasn’t fully there, until my senior year, to become more than just a shooter. I can score from anywhere on the court, and that opens it up not just for me, but for my teammates. I feel getting bigger and better makes things easier offensively and defensively.”
Porter has matured physically both on and off the court. Crawford reached out to Porter to explain the importance of mental maturity, and how critical it is to be a leader and role model on the court and in life.
Having lost his father at the age of 4, Porter calls mom Ayanna his role model in life.
“She’s been a single parent since I was 4,” he said, “And how she takes on life after the loss of my dad inspires me to persevere and keep going.”
That inspiration, plus Crawford’s advice, helped Porter reach a mental maturity level to go along with the physical maturity in his body.
“I’ve always been the learning type,” he said. “It’s not just about being a performer, but getting other people involved. It’s about being a leader. The way Jamal gives back to my community is a blessing. This opportunity for me is a blessing.”
Porter cites James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James as his role models on the court: Harden for his shooting, Westbrook for his motor and James for his gifts.
“I feel LeBron is the all-around greatest, and I want to go against him and be better than him one day,” Porter said.
“I’m nothing but motivated for this team camp, and I want to prove something to everyone.”