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Portis expecting a show in Chi-Town

As one of six future SEC players on the West roster for tonight’s McDonald’s All-American Game, Arkansas signee Bobby Portis has heard a little smack talk among future conference rivals this week.

Bobby Portis is the 14th Razorback – and the first since Olu Famitimi in 2003 – to be selected to play in the McDonald's All-American Game. Portis will also play in the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit this month.

It’s all in good fun.

But when it comes to the game, itself, in Chicago, Portis, a five-star power forward, means business.

“Every day in practice, even in my school ball, I just try to compete and try to get better,” Portis said Wednesday morning. “This is an all-star game. Of course, everybody knows everybody can score. I’m really not worried about any of my scoring. I’m just worrying about trying to get better with my defense and my blocked shots and taking charges and just bringing energy to our team so we can win the game.

“In all-star games, everyone tries to score, score, score, but really, it’s not about that. It’s about the little things that people do to get the victory for their team.”

And that’s the approach Portis said he took to the court this week, trying to go hard every play he was out there.

“I was dead tired at the end of practice,” he said.

But that effort – and the work he’s put in over the years while playing for Little Rock Hall and the Arkansas Wings – will be rewarded again tonight at 8:30 Central when the teams take the court for the McDonald's All-American Game at the United Center. Portis – the 14th Razorback to play in the event – is expected to be one of the starting five for the West when they take on the East in the ESPN-televised game.

Portis (6-10, 225 pounds) arrived in Chicago on Saturday, and practice began the following day. He described his experience so far as “crazy” and “humbling.”

“The first day I got here, I flew down here to Chicago, and I came to the hotel,” Portis said. “They told me to go to the lobby, and I see my jersey. I see “Portis” on the back of this McDonald’s jersey. It had my number on it, No. 10, too. And after I saw that, it finally hit me that, ‘Dang, I’m here. I’m a McDonald’s All-American.’

“And then the second day, we went to the Ronald McDonald House, and we saw the little kids. And that was a very humbling experience because I am fortunate enough to have the things that I have. Those kids are really sick, and just seeing us walk in there, it brightened up their day, I think. So overall I think this whole thing was a very humbling experience for me, seeing the little kids and just to get better, to play against the top players in the nation.”

Portis, obviously, is one of those top players. He’s ranked the No. 24 overall prospect in the nation for 2013 by 247Sports and the No. 6 power forward.

Tonight, he’ll team up with five future SEC foes – Kentucky signees Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee and James Young, and LSU signee Jarrell Martin.

Kentucky also has two commits on the East squad in Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle, giving John Calipari a record six future Wildcats in the event. (The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, uncommitted small forward Andrew Wiggins, is also considering the Wildcats.)

With so many future Kentucky players gathered in Chicago for the game, of course Portis has gotten some ribbing. “When we talk about the SEC next year, they’re talking about they’re going to beat us by 100 points,” he said. And of course, he responds.

But again, it’s all in good fun, and Portis thinks the crowd in attendance and those watching at home will be treated to a good show on the home court of the Chicago Bulls.

“Tonight, I think it’s going to be a real fast-paced game,” Portis said. “I think it’s going to be real hard, hard matchups – Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker, me vs. Dakari, Julius Randle vs. Aaron Gordon. I know the matchups are crazy, but I think everybody’s going to come out there and try to give the crowd what they want and then just try to play hard and have fun at the end of the day.”

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