Releasing guards may affect recruiting

By Tom Burton

NIU will find itself struggling to replace its five players they lost this season, three to graduation and two to dismissal.

Forward Aaric Armstead and centers Sean Damaska and Marin Maric, all seniors, played their last game as Huskies in a 72-69 March 6 loss against Eastern Michigan University in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

Another player who will not be part of the team next season is sophomore guard Laytwan Porter, who was released from the program March 8.

There seems to be a strange trend developing here.

It was just as strange when the team “mutually” agreed to part ways with sophomore guard Marshawn Wilson Feb. 14.

As for Porter, Head Coach Mark Montgomery disclosed a similar statement about him that is general and useless to anyone who wants to know what is truly going on.

“Laytwan Porter will not return to the NIU men’s basketball team for the 2017-18 season,” Montgomery said. “We thank [Porter] for his contributions to our program and wish him well moving forward.”

The two former Huskies in Wilson and Porter share similar backgrounds during their tenure with this team — a strong freshman year followed by a sophomore year filled with frustration.

Porter began the season as the team’s starting point guard and was primed for a breakout year.

However, in their Dec. 11 game against Minnesota, Montgomery named freshman point guard Justin Thomas the starter over Porter.

Porter subsequently was benched for the remainder of the season and averaged under five points per game on 27 percent shooting in just over 15 minutes per game in 19 games in a reserve role.

In eight games as a starter, he averaged over 10 points per game in just over 27 minutes per game.

“[Porter] needs a fresh start. I need a fresh start, and I wish him nothing but the best,” Montgomery said. “Don’t kid yourself, his past transgressions caught up to him. I thought [releasing Porter] was best for our program at this time.”

Porter was suspended for three games in December. It was his second suspension of the year. Porter was also suspended indefinitely this past spring after he was charged with marijuana possession following a traffic stop, according to an April 7 Northern Star article. During that time, Montgomery was skeptical about Porter’s desire to continue playing for this team but decided to give him another chance.

Fortunately for Porter, his days of burying his head under a towel at the end of the bench are over. Montgomery said several instances with Porter added up and the team eventually decided to release the young guard.

However, the problem is not Porter or Wilson; the problem is the short leash these players seem to have when they have an off-year. It seems strange that after one bad year, these two players got released. It is also interesting that players like Porter and Wilson randomly fall out of Montgomery’s rotation, especially considering the fact that Montgomery has been here with NIU since March 23, 2011, and recruited both of these players.

Montgomery is currently recruiting players for the 2017-18 season, but it will be interesting to see what players will want to be part of a program that makes moves such as this.

Former Huskie forward Aaric Armstead said the entire team has a good relationship with Montgomery and did not notice any negative emotions or activity off the court from Wilson, Porter or any other players.  

This seems to be an off-the-court issue that the team and the organization doesn’t want anyone to know about.

In regards to the basketball floor, the team will have some holes to fill next season after losing Armstead, Maric, Porter and Wilson.

“When two guys are transferring that you were planning on having back for their junior year, it affects recruiting,” Montgomery said. “Now we have to make sure we sign a couple guards this spring. It’s just part of the business.”

As of now, NIU only has one recruit for the 2017 season, and it is a center. If no further recruits are signed, the Huskies will have six guards to rotate in two positions, including Second Team All-Freshman Eugene German. Hopefully the release of Porter and Wilson will not be a red flag to future recruits.