published Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Otto Porter Jr. carries Hoyas' hopes

It may have been the most impressive individual performance of the college basketball season.

With a record 35,012 packed into Syracuse's Carrier Dome to watch the final Big East regular-season game ever between the Orange -- who are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season -- and bitter rival Georgetown, the Hoyas' Otto Porter Jr. poured in 33 points to shock the 'Cuse 57-46.

That thrust the Hoyas to the top of the Big East (21-4, 11-3) heading into Wednesday's dangerous road game at crafty Connecticut and elevated them to No. 7 nationally.

That performance also elevated the soft-spoken Porter into the conversation for national player of the year, joining Michigan point guard Trey Burke, Indiana wing Victor Oladipo, Creighton forward Doug McDermott and Duke post Mason Plumlee as the fab five most likely to be handed individual hardware at season's end.

"Porter was so good," Syracuse Jim Boeheim said afterward. "He was the difference in the game. By a lot."

If only the 6-8 sophomore forward from Sikeston, Mo., could change the college game a lot. If only he could encourage the rest of the sport to do as he did -- which was to turn his back on AAU ball and basketball factories masquerading as high schools -- to learn the game's fundamentals at the grassroots level.

"He was extremely fortunate growing up in the house that he did," Georgetown coach John Thompson III told the Washington Post last winter, mindful that Porter's father had led Sikeston's Scott County Central High School to the first of its 15 straight 1-A state titles in 1976 and that his mother, Elnora Timmons, also led Central to a state crown.

"Above and beyond his play in school, he had his parents, his uncles, his cousins. They played together, beat each other up and really competed. Otto learned how to compete at a very young age."

The Hoyas always have competed, whether the coach be JT III, his father or Craig Esherick, who filled a five-and-a-half-year coaching bridge between father and son.

But despite the program's storied history of four Final Fours and one national title, rarely, if ever, has Georgetown had a player as complete as Porter. He has averaged 18.9 points and 8.2 rebounds a game since forward Greg Whittington was suspended 11 games ago because of academics.

Not that Porter is the only reason the Hoyas have possibly become moya in Whittington's absence, winning 10 of those 11 games. Junior guard Markel Starks averages 12.1 points and three assists. Junior post Nate Lubick averages 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Said St. John's coach Steve Lavin of Lubick: "He's a central figure in Georgetown's success. The screening, the capable passing, cleaning up boards for garbage points, and there's timeliness to the ways he adds value."

But Porter is clearly the Hoyas' MVP. While he was hitting 63 percent of his shots against Syracuse (12 of 19), his teammates hit 7 of 35 (20 percent).

"I think I did a pretty good job," a sheepish Porter said afterward, "but I could have been better."

If he can be better than that, Georgetown just might return to the Final Four for the first time since 2007, the last time it was in Atlanta before this year.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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