Chris Porter spent the offseason away from the basket. Not away from basketball, just the basket.
Auburn's 6-foot-7 senior forward shot hundreds of 3-pointers every day during the summer in an attempt to complement the spectacular inside game that helped him become the leading vote-getter Wednesday on The Associated Press' preseason All-America team.
"We know he can dunk, we know he can play within 8, 10 feet, we know his game is strong around the rim," Tigers coach Cliff Ellis said of Porter, the Southeastern Conference player of the year last season. "But we want to stretch out his range."
Porter averaged 16.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and a highlight-reel dunk or two a game as Auburn got as high as No. 2 in the rankings during a 29-4 season in which he was a second-team All-America. The Tigers lost in the third round of the NCAA tournament to Ohio State.
"We were just a couple shots falling away from a chance at the Final Four," Porter said. "I didn't want to leave Auburn feeling like I had left something out on the court."
Porter was listed on 53 of 65 ballots from a 65-member media panel. DePaul sophomore swingman Quentin Richardson was next with 46 votes. Next were two senior guards from the Big Ten who led their teams to the Final Four last season Scoonie Penn of Ohio State and Mateen Cleaves of Michigan State. Each received 44 votes.
Maryland junior forward Terence Morris was fifth in the voting with 35.
Junior guard Khalid El-Amin of Connecticut was the next-highest vote-getter with 23. He was followed by junior center Chris Mihm of Texas, 22, junior swingman Michael Redd of Ohio State, 13, senior center Kenyon Martin of Cincinnati, 12, and senior forward Mark Madsen of Stanford, 10.
Richardson, who made many in Chicago happy when he announced his return to DePaul, was a consensus national freshman of the year last season. He led the Blue Demons to an 18-13 record and an NIT berth while averaging 18.9 points and 10.5 rebounds.
"He has got a lot of confidence shooting," DePaul coach Pat Kennedy said. "As a post-up player around the basket, Quentin is probably as good as there is in the country. He needs to work on his medium-range game."
Penn, a third-team All-America last season, was given a lot of credit for taking the Buckeyes from a 1-15 conference record to a 27-9 season and the school's first Final Four appearance since 1968. He averaged 16.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
Cleaves, a repeat preseason All-America selection, is the only returning postseason All-America.
The start of his senior season will be pushed back at least until mid-December because of a stress fracture in his foot. With a healthy Cleaves the Spartans would have probably been a runaway choice for preseason No. 1, but they're still a Big Ten favorite because he will be back for the conference schedule.
Cleaves averaged 11.points and 7.2 assists in helping Michigan State to its first Final Four appearance since Magic Johnson led the Spartans to the title in 1979.
Morris will be the focus of the Maryland offense this season with the departure of Steve Francis to the NBA. The 6-9 forward averaged 15.3 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 55 percent as the Terrapins stayed among the top five in the rankings for most of last season.
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