Highlights from Rachel's days in college include having a class down the hall from Chase Daniel and having NCAA wrestling champion Ben Askren hold the door open for her at Brady Commons, Mizzou's student center. She spent time covering Mizzou basketball, softball and baseball while working for the Columbia Missourian and is excited to return home to Southeast Missouri to cover local sports for semoball.com.
Rachel has covered three Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournaments for the Southeast Missourian and semoball.com, and she'll see you courtside again this year.
Column: Otto Porter's message for kids
Otto Porter Jr. is just a few months past his 20th birthday.
Not long ago he was a college student who told me he could walk across campus without garnering any attention. Now he's guaranteed to be a multimillionaire, and he has camera crews follow him across the country.
He took a break from preparing for his first NBA season to return home to Southeast Missouri, Morley and Scott County Central High School this weekend to have his jersey retired and the Braves' home court named after him.
These things happened because of the points he scored, the rebounds he collected, the defense he played and the championships he helped win. No amount of character gets your name on the wall in Ronnie Cookson Gymnasium all by itself.
But no amount of talent or titles can bring together the crowd at SCC this weekend or provide the inspiration Porter's success has all on their own.
I was struck by something he said during his speech Friday night at the court-naming ceremony.
"For all the little kids here that's growing up -- just because you're from a small town, just because your place isn't on the map doesn't mean that you can't work hard," he said. "If you really want something, if you really want to dream about it, go do it. Nobody's going to tell you otherwise."
Any of us could say these words, but few people have the audience or influence Porter has. I was impressed but surprised to hear him directly address children.
Porter has always been a leader -- on the court, in the classroom and in almost every other way -- by example. People line up to heap praise on his personality, and this weekend was no different. The plaque that will be placed in SCC's trophy case summarizing his career calls him an athlete and a gentleman.
In the past I've been told stories about him giving elementary kids high fives in the hallways and Saturday night, after a sold out formal banquet, he stayed and patiently signed autographs and took photos for more than an hour, until literally everyone who approached him had one.
But outward advice and appeals never have been his thing. In private, with his friends and teammates, I've been assured he's outgoing, but there's a reason "humbled" and "reserved" are adjectives used on the plaque.
"It was everybody else that wanted me to say something," Porter said when I asked him about his message. "It wasn't me wanting to say something. I was going to say something about them anyway but my mom, my dad, basically my family wanted me to say something to the kids because a lot of kids are looking up to me now, especially from the bootheel, from Southeast Missouri."
He's an intelligent young man, keenly aware of his influence in this area and other places, but I think he's only beginning to grow into someone who understands what he can do with that influence, what power he has.
"Kid's have got dreams," Porter said, hardly more than a kid who's just starting to live his own dream. "You can chase them, go after them. You've just got to put in the hard work and dedication and sacrifice. That's basically all I wanted to say."
It's not a ground-breaking message, but it's an important one nonetheless. That he was pushed to share it by his parents is no slight against him -- in fact, it's remarkably appropriate. I've asked many people, including his cousins, his high school and college coaches and his friends, about what made Porter the man and player he is. The answer, invariably, has something to do with his parents and the way he was raised.
Otto Porter, Sr. reluctantly took the microphone on Friday night, and, as seems to be his specialty, placed his son's words and accomplishments into proper perspective.
"The one thing I always tell him is don't forget where you come from, always put God first and to just understand that he's blessed," he said.
"There's been tons of kids that want to achieve what he's done but that hasn't made it, but he's had the talent, he's had the brain, he's had the athleticism. The thing of it is that at the end of the day, if you put in the work, you will be rewarded. That's the one thing I've always told him -- put in the work and you will be rewarded."
His son learned that from him, and now he gets to tell it to people all over the country and they will believe him because his own life is proof.
No, we can't all be NBA players. We can't all be millionaires. We don't all get all the things we dream of when we're children.
But we do get what we work for and when someone like Porter gets everything he's dreamed of, it lets everybody else dream a little bigger, too.
"Remember your family and where you come from," Porter told the crowd Friday night. "That's how it's going to be with me when I play in DC. Every time I play I think of you guys, every single time. That helps me push through everything."
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