I remember Tajuan Porter, the spark plug who lit it up from behind the arc as a freshman, setting a Pac-10 record for threes made and helping propel the Ducks to the Elite Eight. Arguably his season highlight was hitting an NCAA regional record eight threes against UNLV, scoring 33 points and carrying the team to the regional final. The UNLV game potentially took it all out of him, as he went 2-12 from the field against Florida and didn't hit a field goal until 0:42 left in the game. But we chalked it up as a freshman finally tiring after a full season of high-octane college basketball, loved the result of our season, and got all giddy for next year.
Next winter, there was something different about TP. Was it the pressure of having to run the offense? Possibly. Was he forcing his game, attempting to duplicate last year's success? Meh, maybe. The problem, however, was physical.
When Tajuan Porter was born, a bubbling 5' 6" baby boy, his parents put him under the tutelage of a Shinto priest named Basuke Toboru. Toboru taught the young Porter about the importance of finding harmony in nature, patience, and good shot selection. Tajuan underwent seven years of intense meditation, ritual, and ball handling drills. On Porter's eighth birthday, Toboru prophesized that Porter would succeed in his goals, and bestowed upon him all his holy glory and blessing. These prayers and holy mantra were to be kept with Tajuan at all times, in the form of a kenoid on his left ear. It was to be the source of all his power.
Adolescence was good to Tajuan Porter. He found love in basketball, winning two state championships at Renaissance High School in Detroit. But he began to lose sight of his training as a spiritual being. He wanted to be like all of his classmates, going to parties and going on dates. He thought less and less about his Eastern beliefs. He was meditating less and less. But life was good nonetheless.
Due to his small stature, his only scholarship offer was from the University of Oregon, but he arrived and achieved immediate success. But college was a whole different monster from the trivial dramas of high school. Now there was television exposure, city nightlife, and an entire campus full of cute girls who screamed in excitement anytime he buried a three. His whole world was becoming more image conscious. His holy prayer kenoid was seeming like more of a hinderance now than ever. After a successful freshman year, Tajuan was riding high, and felt invincible. He decided that he'd had enough, and knew he could make it without this thing on his ear. I mean, what good was it doing anyway? He was the one making the shots. He had the kenoid removed in the summer of 2007, and wasn't in the least worried about his performance for the 2007-8 basketball season.
The next two years were a stark contrast from the do-no-wrong feeling of freshman year. His sophomore campaign saw a drop in field goal and three-point shooting percentages. The team went from an Elite Eight berth under the leadership of Aaron Brooks to barely recieving an NCAA tournament berth and losing in the first round to Mississippi State. Despite being the starting point guard, his assist output only increased by .4 assists per game, and his assist to turnover ratio was 1.03, subpar for a major conference point guard. His junior season has seen a further drop in production, culminating in a benching by coach Ernie Kent against Arizona St.
Whether Tajuan Porter can recapture the magic from 2007 remains to be seen. Perhaps with the emergence of Garrett Sim and Kamyron Brown at point guard, Tajuan can return to being primarily a 2 guard who enters games when the Ducks need an offensive spark. And Duck fans want nothing but success for Tajuan in his last two years here and beyond, most likely with the Harlem Globetrotters or the And 1 Mixtape Tour. But somewhere out there, a Shinto priest is wondering where he went wrong. And an cosmetic surgeon is absolutely tearing up his rec league, with TP's kenoid in his sock.