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Hoyas freshman Porter versatile off bench

- - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On the first airplane ride of his 18 years, Otto Porter took a deep breath and prepared to take off on the biggest journey of his life.

He's been soaring ever since.

The small-town kid from Sikeston, Mo., whose first flight was on his recruiting trip to Georgetown, has turned into an international jetsetter — with trips to China and Hawaii under his belt — and an invaluable sixth man for the No. 12 team in the country in his freshman campaign.

Not bad for someone straight from a high school with fewer than 200 students.

"It's a great experience," the soft-spoken Porter said. "I'm not really [homesick]. I'm always busy doing things."

Most of those things have occurred on the court, where Porter immediately established himself as one of the Hoyas' bulwarks.

The 6-foot-8 forward is the first man off the bench and averages 26.8 minutes, the third-highest mark on the team, thanks to his ability to fill the stat sheet.

Porter averages 8.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists. For good measure, he also has 14 steals, nine blocks and has played with a fearlessness that belies his age or small-town background.

"He was recruited to come in and give us what he's given us," guard Markel Starks said. "Honestly, Otto's a great player. He's done a lot."

The ability to contribute in all facets of the game will be critical when Georgetown (10-1) opens Big East play tonight with a road tilt against No. 4 Louisville (11-0).

"Otto is a terrific basketball player," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "He understands, as much as anyone that I've coached, that every part of the game is important. You look at the stat sheet at the end of the game, and he's done some of everything. And he cares about every part of the game."

That may seem odd for a player who broke the state playoff scoring record or for someone who won three straight state titles, as Porter did at Scott County Central High, but Thompson believes that Porter is a rare breed.

"It's a tribute to his upbringing, his parents, his high school coaches, his relatives who he's been playing with — there's a caring about that kid and the game of basketball that is unique in this day and age," Thompson said.

Porter did not play AAU basketball growing up, an extremely unorthodox decision in today's recruiting game, preferring to play high school ball, attend some area camps and work under the tutelage of his father, Otto Sr., himself a standout basketball player at Scott County and Southeast Missouri State.

Basketball is the lifeblood of Porter's family, which is full of standout ballers who played a huge role in shaping his skills.

"Just playing with my family, they gave me a lot of advice to help me with my game," Porter said.

Porter flew under the radar for a large majority of his high school career, first coming to Georgetown's attention during Scott County's state championship run in his junior year.

At that time, Missouri and Kansas were interested as well, but it was hardly the recruiting frenzy that often greets top-notch talent from their initial high school games.

"During that junior year was when I saw the name, recognized the name, started watching footage, started following up," Thompson said. "But there are very few secrets out there in this business."

Still, Porter wasn't a household name when he arrived on campus.

"I didn't know much about him," senior guard Jason Clark said. "He's a small-town kid. We all talk to him and tell him to keep playing hard. He's kind of quiet. He's still coming out of his shell."

Porter's unflappable nature benefits the Hoyas as well, giving them a player who can inject stability, defense and rebounding presence off the bench without making the kind of unforced errors that might plague a less-composed player.

"I feel very comfortable coming off the bench," he said. "I just try to come out there and play as hard as my teammates, if not harder, to help the team out and win."