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BenFred: Former Tigers are pumped about Porter’s potential

July 24, 2017 GMT

Sean Weatherspoon, who arrived at Mizzou as an unknown two-star recruit and departed as a beloved team captain who totaled 400-plus tackles for a football team that won 38 games and made four bowl appearances between 2006-09, started reminiscing about ... basketball.

As Norm Stewart Court finally started to clear Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena, the six-year NFL veteran said what everybody who attended the Laurence Bowers/DeMarre Carroll charity alumni game had been thinking.

The crowd at this scrimmage was bigger than some games here last year.

Spoon motioned to the seats.

“That’s something that has to change,” he said. “Because I remember waking up on Saturday mornings like, ‘Man, we gotta get over here.’ You had Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin coming in. And Missouri had a chance to whoop those guys.”

If the crowd that showed Saturday is any indication, hoops attendance is in for a healthy boost after the program’s rapid overhaul.

A team that went 27-68 under former coach Kim Anderson’s admirable yet ultimately unsuccessful attempt at a rebuild enters Cuonzo Martin’s first campaign with forward Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 recruit in the 2017 class; the No. 8 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings; and the potential to improve that ranking -- if Jontay Porter, Michael’s younger brother, reclassifies and plays alongside his brother. The vibe in CoMo is that it’s only a matter of time until Jontay, a top-20 prospect in the 2018 class, makes his move.

Saturday proved former players are just as giddy as fans.

“I’ve got a lot of love for Kim Anderson,” Weatherspoon said. “He did what he could. But it was time. It was time for a change. Coach Zo is going to come in here with the right mentality. He’s going to get this building excited again. With the signing of Porter, and he’s bringing other guys with him. That’s what it takes. You have to get them in here. Look at this place. When I was here, it was hard to get a seat in here.”

No offense to Spoon, who showed off an admirable 3-point shot Saturday, but I wanted to hear what former Mizzou basketball players think about Porter and his potential.

Spoiler alert: They’re optimistic.

Laurence Bowers: “He can be great, man. He’s special. Unbelievable, 6-foot-11, and doing what he does. I’m very happy for him and all the success he’s already had, and the success he will continue to have. He’s a humble kid. Very Christian-oriented. I wish him nothing but the best. I think he’s going to do great things for the program -- for one year, or two years, but I don’t think two years will be the case.”

Melvin Booker: “I watched Mike play on the (Nike) EYBL circuit, because (my son) Devin (Booker) played, and I used to coach. I still follow the circuit. I just went last week to watch Peach Jam. Mike has always been a great player. He’s a great kid also. How good can he be? It’s up to him. He has to work hard. But the guy is a special talent. There are not many players like him in college basketball ... This is a great group they put together. One thing I know about Cuonzo, he’s going to make this team play hard. He always played hard. He was always a hard-nosed type player. They are going to take on his characteristics and play like he did. If you mesh that with the experience they already have and the young talent coming in, it could be a special year.”

Jimmy McKinney: “What more can you say? He’s a pro. The thing is, he’s really gotta keep his head, stay focused and work hard. If he does that, he will be in the NBA soon.”

DeMarre Carroll: “Let’s just say they will be lucky to keep him for four years. He’s a really good player. The sky is the limit for the kid.”