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By LARRY VAUGHT
For the first time since he was either 3 or 4 years old, Michael Porter is not playing basketball this summer.
No camps. No individual workouts. No shooting drills. No pickup games.
Porter was KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s starting point guard as a junior. He averaged 4.1 points, 2.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game for coach Billy Gillispie. Yet he was often criticized by UK fans for his overall play, even though Gillispie insisted he did a better job running the WildcatsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ offense than anyone else.
Porter, who expected to be a shooting guard at Kentucky when he was recruited by then-coach Tubby Smith, knew he probably would not be a good fit in new coach John CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s offense.
Since he had already graduated and his wife is expecting the coupleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first child later this month, Porter decided to give up basketball and go to graduate school.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been a lot different this summer,Ã¢â‚¬Â Porter said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have a lot more time on my hands. I work out, but it is a different type of workout than when I played basketball.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve tried to look for a job because I have more time than ever on my hands now. I do miss basketball at times, but I have been fine. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not too bad.Ã¢â‚¬Â
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been spending a lot more time with his wife as they prepare for their new arrival.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any regrets about my decision. I miss basketball and miss the competitive aspect, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t regret it. I knew it was best for me. I am fine with the decision,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
So was he treated fairly, or did Calipari force him out to free a scholarship for an incoming freshman?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Coach Calipari was fine. I just went in one day and told him I felt like I was done playing basketball. We talked about it. He said he respected my decision and that was that. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything to make me quit or anything like that. I just thought it was the right time to step away,Ã¢â‚¬Â Porter said.
Porter still sees former teammates occasionally, even though he has made no attempt to join them in summer pickup games.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I see them every once in a while. I still like them and they still like me. I still like hanging around them and we still have fun,Ã¢â‚¬Â Porter said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t gone to play, but I could if I wanted to. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really want to because I am too out of shape already, and those guys would kill me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Porter never complained about his role on the team Ã¢â‚¬â€ or how he was treated by fans Ã¢â‚¬â€ last season when UK failed to qualify for NCAA Tournament play. However, he admits it was a difficult year at times.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Last year was hard to a degree. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard for every point guard in the SEC. I felt like it was tough on me, but I had to realize that is how it is,Ã¢â‚¬Â Porter said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was not a big deal. Toward the end of (the) year I just let it go past me and had fun. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry about what anyone else thought.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There were times during the season where it was overwhelming for a while. I just kept pushing through it. I find my strength in God, and I believe without him I would not make it. I just kept persevering and pushed through it and moved past the tough part of the season.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Porter, unlike many of his teammates, seemed to finally come to grips with GillispieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s coaching style and philosophy.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“With any coach there will be times when I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree with the philosophy or certain other things. My view, with how I was raised, is that people over you, like a coach, deserve respect because that is who is in control,Ã¢â‚¬Â Porter said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He was the coach, and the best thing to do was just go along with whatever I was told. Even if I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree with all he did or said, I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ignore what he told me. He was the coach. I just told myself to do it, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why it was maybe easier for me than it was for some other players.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Porter expects CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first Kentucky team to do well Ã¢â‚¬â€ and he hopes to watch the Cats play often.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I would say they would be pretty talented. I would think they will be good. I think they will come together, and it will be a fun season to watch from everything I have heard,Ã¢â‚¬Â Porter said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I would love to go to games and watch.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to tell how much they will miss Jodie (Meeks). He was a really good scorer, so you have to miss that. Maybe someone else will fill that role. Jodie was a great player, but I just believe the team will still come together and be fine.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Porter says heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll keep fond memories of his Kentucky career and has no ill feelings toward anyone over his career or how it ended.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am satisfied with what I did here. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not like I feel mistreated or anything like that,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I left on my terms. I have no hard feelings toward anybody. I would love to go watch (games). I have never done that before. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what it will be like to just go to a game to watch.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have been playing long time. I will probably be analyzing and coaching and doing everything like that in the stands. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing new for Kentucky fans. I will just be like the rest of them now.Ã¢â‚¬Â