Often times, NCAA schools will have an advantage based on location. It might be Miami with the fact that it is in a popular, sunny city, UCLA with its tradition of winning and excellence or it could simply be the old reliable, the home town discount.
For schools that may not always bring in the biggest talents, having a hometown player in their area that is also highly recruited can often be a blessing. For a lot of players, being close to home is important and being able to win banners and trophies for their home town teams, often the teams they grew up cheering for, is an even bigger deal.
In the case of the Arkansas Razorbacks and Bobby Portis, the hometown discount more than likely played an important factor. Not that Arkansas is not basketball school, they even won a NCAA title in 1994 and finished second in 1995. Aside from that, they have always been more of a football school than a basketball school. For Portis, the Little Rock, Arkansas, the appeal of leading Arkansas back into the NCAA tournament, somewhere they have not been since 2008, was an opportunity too big to pass up.
Here are some highlights of Portis to see what kind of player he is.
Having measured at 6″11 in shoes with a 7″1.5 wingspan, Portis is the perfect size for a forward. On top of that, his frame, at 231 pounds, is well sculpted and bulky. Perfect for throwing his weight down in the low post where he will be expected to spend most of his time in college.
In an age where big men want to shoot jumpers, dribble like guards and play a face up game, Portis is a rare type of player. His main offensive tool is the ability to go down in the paint, set himself up and demand the ball with his back to the basket. Portis does not shy away from contact and he is very competitive. While in the post, Portis can use his weight and length to back down his defender and overpower him for easy buckets.
That isn’t to say that Portis can’t score in other ways. He is comfortable facing up when the situation calls for it and his jump shot can stretch out to the three point line. Admitedly, he is not nearly as accurate a three point shooter as other forwards might be but it still remains a tool he can pull out if his opponent forgets that it exists.
When he is in the post, Portis has shown good skill in passing it out to his teammates. Because of this, it is much harder to double team him successfully without leaving yourself open to some easy three point shots. Surrounded by good shooters, Portis becomes a dangerous player almost as much for his passing as his scoring. Passing is a skill that big men seem to either naturally acquire or never really get a feel for. Chris Webber was always a brilliant passer but Kevin McHale as a blackhole on offense. Even years of practice and coaching couldn’t change him. That is why Portis’ ability to make the easy passes is important already and should be a huge plus for any Arkansas fans.
When he arrives in the NCAA, Portis will find himself playing against players that are much quicker and much more athletic. At best, Portis is an average athlete and not a particularly explosive leaper. Much of his damage is done with his fairly firmly planted on the floor, not in the air with some high flying acrobatics. This might prove to be a struggle for Portis since has never really had to deal with guys being bigger and stronger than he is.
For his size, length and weight, Portis is only average at best as a rebounder. It is not an issue of motor because he is always playing at his highest level. Portis just doesn’t seem very good at knowing where the ball will be coming, seems to let himself get boxed out a lot and since he lacks the explosiveness to get off the floor, he is often beaten by a smaller man who can get to the ball quicker with his speed. It should be of the highest importance for Portis and his coaches to really focus on improving his rebounding skills when he arrives to Arkansas. To be looked at as a real star player, and one with NBA potential, he will need to show that he can rebound at least as well as his position.
On the offensive side of the ball, it would be nice to see Portis add in some versatility to his game. His post game is already well advanced for his age but his shooting stroke and ball handling ability could both be worked on some more. To be a number one option, he will need more than one strength in a half court offense and right now, he mostly relies on his post ups and in transition. In the NCAA, points don’t come nearly as easily and defense are harsh on big men. Portis will have to find a way to incorporate some more diversity into his game to stay competitive.
Finally, I question how high Portis’ ceiling really is. He does not seem like a player who will come out and average big points or rebounds, he doesn’t impact the game defensively at an elite level and he doesn’t have the star power that a lot of big name recruits already have at his age. As he stands, he is a very good basketball player and I am not sure that he will ever be anything more than that. There is no problem in only being very good but ranked as high as he is, the upside seems to be lacking a little.
What to expect at Arkansas:
Whether or not Portis is the go to man right away for the Razorbacks, he will still have an impact on their team. Coming in, he will be the post scorer and Arkansas will look to him to establish an early rhythm in the post to get some easy buckets. Once teams start keying in on him, they will hope that Portis’ ability to pass out of the post will create easy opportunities for the rest of his teammates.
Portis does indeed have a lot to work on. That is not a problem, he is still young, has plenty of time left in the NCAA and should just focus on improving himself every day. At this point, his NBA stock should be the furthest thing away from his mind as he looks to prove he can be a game changer in the NCAA.
If he does become a leader for the Razorbacks, it will have been through hard work, dedication and a lot of hustle. Because of this, Portis should be an immediate fan favorite and campus celebrity. Though I am sure being the home town hero won’t hurt either.