SIKESTON -- When watching a Sikeston basketball game it is hard to miss Michael Porter. Whether it is his grace around the basket, his skill at blocking shots, or his signature Afro haircut, Porter makes his presence known.
This season the 6-5 junior averaged 19.6 points per game while pulling down 10 rebounds per game, all while leading the Bulldogs to a 22-4 record, the most regular season wins by a Sikeston team in school history. In the process, Porter was named our Standard Democrat Boys Player of the Year.
"I thought Michael had a great year," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "I thought this by far was his best year because so many teams doubled him and even tripled him at times. He's so unselfish and has a great work ethic. He has a terrific team attitude and you couldn't ask for a better all-around player."
A lot was expected of Porter coming into the season. The two-time all-stater was the only returning starter on a team with many young and inexperienced players. Instead of wilting under the pressure, Porter became a team leader, a role in which he thrived.
"I expected (to be more of a leader) because I've been here since I was a freshman," Porter said. "Even though I'm not the oldest one on the team, I know what it takes to be a winner so I try to lead by example."
The junior could often be seen calling his teammates together before a game or before the start of a second half, offering encouragement and instruction. But the majority of Porter's leadership happened on the court.
"(Michael) has the ability to make other people better and he does that every day coming in ready to work, ready to practice," Holifield said. "In a game situation it is the same, he's always ready to work and gives you 100 percent every day."
All season long, Porter was the focus of the opposing teams' defense, often drawing double and triple teams. However, instead of forcing up a shot, Porter was uncanny in his ability to find the open man.
"I really had no choice," Porter said of his improved passing. "If I was down low in the post I was getting double and triple-teamed. I knew Sherwin (Jones) and Matt (Ritch) could make the shots if I threw it back out to them."
"People really saw this year what kind of passer he is," Holifield said. "Also defensively, he improved so much throughout the year."
Porter also proved to be a force on defense whether in the post or in open space. The junior swatted shots at an alarming rate, compiling 112 on the season (4.3 per game) while also leading the team with 61 steals.
It is Porter's all-around game that has college scouts knocking, but the junior knows he must improve even more in the off-season.
"I've got to lift a lot of weights and learn to play the 3-man spot where I'm able to shoot the ball outside," Porter said. "I've also got to work on my speed."
While Porter had a great year and has college in the future, there is still unfinished business with the Bulldogs. After earning a trip to the final four in Columbia his freshman season, Porter and the Bulldogs have lost the last two district championship games to Notre Dame. This year, Notre Dame even won the state championship, something that Porter desperately wants.
"Win state," Porter said of his goal for next year. "To see us lose a game to (Notre Dame) and they win state, that could have been us. Then I went up there to see Scott Central play and I just really want to get up there. I think we'll do it."
But if Sikeston does make the final four, Porter may have a distinctly different look as his Afro may have seen it's last game.
"I don't think the 'fro will be here next year," Porter laughed. "I remember when I was a freshman I cut it to show I wasn't any more special than anyone else here at Sikeston, so I think next year I'll have it cut. I think colleges like the short hair better. I think the 'fro is retired."
Unfortunately for the teams on Sikeston's schedule next year, Porter isn't.