Arkansas-Bound Bobby Portis Looks To Capitalize On USA Selection
Throughout the nation, high school basketball players rise through the ranks each year, looking up to the current crop of senior stars. For underclassmen around the country and in Arkansas, look up and you will see Bobby Portis, a 6'9" forward at Hall High School in Little Rock, Ark.
This past season, Portis helped lead Hall to a 26-5 record and an Arkansas High School Athletic Association 6A state title, and he earned MVP of the 6A state tournament along the way. The state championship was Portis' third-straight and the school's fourth in a row, despite the fact that Hall has competed in both the 6A (2010) and 7A (2011 and 2012) classifications over the past four years.
"It was definitely different (playing in 6A) this year, and it was really special earning a four-peat," Portis said of his senior campaign. "I didn't really set any personal goals. I was just trying to be a team player. We wanted to win our conference and to win a state title."
One goal Portis did set for himself was to earn a selection to the 2013 USA Junior National Select Team that will play in the April 20 Nike Hoop Summit.
The Nike Hoop Summit, the premier annual basketball game for high-school boys, features America's top seniors playing against a World Team comprised of elite, international players who are 19-years-old or younger.
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"It was a crazy, crazy thing," Portis said of the phone call he received from USA Basketball asking him to play in the game. "Only 10 players make the team, and I wanted to make the team really bad. When they called, and I found out I made it, it was a pretty great feeling."
It wasn't just the allure of wearing U-S-A across your chest that drew Portis to the Nike Hoop Summit, it also was the performance of the players who have come before him. In fact, the track-record of the Nike Hoop Summit may the most impressive of any USA Basketball event, boasting of140 NBA Draft picks between the USA and World Team in the 15-game history of the event.
"I've seen the Hoop Summit like two or three years now," Portis said. "The first time I saw it was when Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played. Ever since then, I've been following the game on Twitter and stuff, just hoping to make the team."
What Portis and basketball fans saw in the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit last year was the USA's fourth-ever loss. Despite a record-setting 35 points from U.S. guard and current UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, the World Select Team captured an 84-75 win thanks in part to a trio of double-digit scorers, including Canada’s Andrew Wiggins with 20 points and six attempted 3-pointers to tie the International record, China center Wang Zhelin with 19 points and Croatia’s Dario Saric with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Not only is the World Team riding the momentum of last year's win into the 2013 showdown, but its top performer from 2012, Wiggins, who is just a senior this year, once again may suit up for the World Team.
"We need to work really hard so we can win,"' Portis said. "I expect the World Team to come out and play hard, maybe play some zone and try to slow the game down a little bit."
While uncertainty is one challenge for a U.S. team that will know little about its opponent before the game, experience is another. In fact, of the 10 members of the 2013 USA Junior National Select Team, just four previously have competed under FIBA rules in an international game. Portis is one of the newcomers, though he says he is not worried.
"I really am looking forward to playing under international rules," Portis said. "This will be my first USA Basketball experience, but I think all of us will be able to learn to play with the new rules pretty quick."
Where Portis said he will look to make the biggest impact is with his versatility.
"I just try to be a combo forward that can go inside and outside," Portis said. "I try to mix it up a little bit, so I'm not just setting up on the blocks. I don't want people to just have to stay inside the whole game. All on top of the lane. If I'm matched up with a big guy, I look to take him outside, and if I'm matched up with a small guy, I try to take advantage inside."
Portis likely will encounter players with a similar style to his own when he takes the court against the World Team on April 20 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. -- versatile post players. Already, however, Portis said he working on improving his advantage by hitting the weight room, admittedly in preparation for his next step as a freshman at the University of Arkansas in the fall.
"During the season, I was in the weight room about twice a week," Portis said. "Now that the season is over, I will lift every other day and try to get my body right for college."
Whether it is the off season or on, you won't hear Portis complain.
"It's not hard for me," Portis said of staying motivated. "Hard work comes with trying to be one of the best."
Portis will get his chance to see where he stands among some of the best players in the nation as well as the world in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit. Get your tickets now to the show now.