Two weeks after the Kent State men’s basketball season ended with a disappointing 73-58 loss to South Carolina Upstate at the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, senior Michael Porrini hired an agent.
And Porrini, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound point guard, began his quest to continue his career at the next level.
Whether he begins a professional career in the NBA or in a European league, Porrini has spent the past month and a half working out three times a day and playing games at an Impact Basketball facility in Las Vegas.
“I’m out here trying to get better on the court and get some exposure,” said Porrini, who is working out and playing with and against other college players from schools such as Pitt, Villanova, Cincinnati and Florida as well as with Cleveland State guard D’Aundray Brown. “I’m just trying to make my name a little bigger than it’s been coming from a mid-major program.”
Porrini will be in Las Vegas through June 21, a week before the June 28 NBA Draft. In the meantime, he and the other players have worked out and played in front of several NBA scouts and executives, who frequent the facility looking for a diamond in the rough who might have been overlooked.
“Once Mike signed, he started working out with local trainer Chet Feldman, who has worked with tons of NBA players,” said Porrini’s agent, Dino Pergola of Hall of Fame Player Representatives, based in Canton. “But then to get him better exposure, we sent Mike to Vegas with two of our other clients. That’s the main facility where most of the draft picks go to.”
That’s high-level exposure for a guy like Porrini, a Massillon product whose college basketball career reads like an Atlas road map with stops at North Carolina’s Western Carolina University and Florida’s Gulf Coast College before spending the past two years at Kent State.
In addition to playing point guard for the Flashes, Porrini made a name for himself as a tenacious defender. Widely considered one of the most versatile defenders in the Mid-American Conference — he was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year after his junior season — Porrini was often given KSU’s toughest defensive assignment.
Whether that meant guarding another guard, small forward or even a much-bigger power forward, Porrini was always up for the challenge and succeeded in his goal a majority of the time.
“There’s something about him, his attitude I guess, that really came across to me,” Pergola said. “He’s a lot like myself. It took me 10 years to break into the field and become an agent.
“As I got to know him, I just loved the kid. A lot of agents wouldn’t throw the kind of money at him we are. But I see his willingness to do what it takes to get to the next level.”
Since Porrini began working out in Las Vegas, the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers have stopped by to check him out.
“On May 23, ESPN and other TV guys were out there writing about [Porrini and the other NBA hopefuls],” Pergola said. “You just never know who’s going to be dropping through there. If anything else comes up in the next few weeks, we’ll spare no cost to fly our guys [to a workout at the facility in Los Angeles] to get them in front of everybody we possibly can.”
Porrini is well aware of the chance Pergola is taking on him.
“Just being here is a blessing,” he said. “With all the big-time players that are here and to be able to compete with them every day on top of having NBA scouts and team representatives from overseas coming in, it’s an incredible opportunity for me.”
For all of Porrini’s tenacity on the court, his personal life has matured him quicker than most 23-year-olds. One of the more lasting images of him from last season came while the Flashes’ seniors were being honored before a game late in the season.
As Porrini’s name was called, he slowly strolled to midcourt escorted by his mother and his maternal great-grandfather, who was aided by a walker as he slowly shuffled onto the middle of the floor at the M.A.C. Center.
“Mike grew up without a father, so he didn’t have an easy upbringing,” Pergola said. “He has a great family [including mother Tottie and brothers Jared and Cory], but there’s things he lacked. I think that’s what makes him so hungry for success.
“He’s got a road ahead of him. But if anyone can do it, Mike can. Whether that’s the NBA [Developmental] League or Europe, we’re just taking it one step at a time and see what plays out over the next month.”
To aid Porrini’s cause, Pergola is targeting NBA teams that he knows put a value on defense.
“Detroit or Cleveland, teams like that that lack the kind of defensive specialty Mike gives,” he said. “It’s not a question of if he’ll make it. It’s just when. If he has to start in Europe or the D League, I think if anyone has to do it, Mike’s got the hunger for it.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Aeros blog at http://www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.