Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 10, 2013

Porter not signing off

Senior wants to keep hand, and voice, in sports after days as Red Devil are over

Kyle Hobstetter
The Independent

RUSSELL — Some basketball players dream of getting a highlight on ESPN. Russell guard Jacob Porter dreams of introducing them.

The senior has shined as the Red Devils’ starting shooting guard and key defensive stopper this season.

Where Porter wants to shine next is on the television screen by working as a broadcast journalist, especially in the field of sports.

“I’ve always loved sports,” Porter said. “I didn’t want to go into the typical type deal — go to UK and go to Med School or go to Law School. I wanted to go where I was going to be around sports at all times and be around what I love to do at all times of life.

“It’s not about money for me at all. A lot of people have told me it’s not a very good money type of job, but I don’t care about that, I’m just trying to be happy.”

Next fall, Porter will major in electronic media and broadcasting at Northern Kentucky University.

Russell basketball coach Merle Kidwell said Porter has taken this seriously and wouldn’t be surprised to see his shooting guard on television one day.

In fact, he remembers a time when Porter sat next to Russell radio play-by-play announcer Jim Forrest to help call a girls basketball game last season.

“Jim thought he was joking at first and said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” Kidwell said. “He probably didn’t think he would do it. But I think he would be great at that. He’s an NBA junkie. He’s always tweeting about watching the NBA and I think anything Jacob puts his mind to he’ll be successful.”

This season has perfectly exemplified how successful Porter can be when putting his mind to it.

Porter said when he first started playing high school ball, he knew he had a jump shot. But, in his own words, he really didn’t have anything else.

“They called me Steve Kerr,” Porter said comparing himself to the former NBA sharpshooter. “Earlier in my career I was kind of skinny, I wasn’t very fast and I wasn’t very strong.”

In between his junior and senior seasons, Porter said his focus became fixing what he thought were his weaknesses.

“I actually did Crossfit all summer,” Porter said. “I got a little faster and a little stronger. I always knew I could shoot, but everything else in my game I wanted to make better. On the defensive end I’m just playing as hard as possible, to help my team get better.”

Even Kidwell has seen a transformation, not only in his play, but also in how Porter looks physically.

“He’s always had the basketball skill ... it was just a strength issue with him,” Kidwell said. “He really dedicated himself to getting stronger. From where he came is really a credit to him. He studies the game and it’s been a joy to see him evolve into what he’s become.”

None of the work came without sacrifices. That included giving up the family tradition of golf.

Porter’s father and grandfather are excellent golfers, and the sport is big within the family. But Porter wanted to make sure his teammates got the best he could deliver when basketball season tipped off.

“Golf runs in my family,” Porter said. “But I really wanted to do something in basketball, ’cause we’ve never won anything. I really wanted to focus on it with these guys, because it was the last time we’ll all get to play together. And so I was just making sure I’m giving them my 100-percent dedication to this season.”

Porter said many tried to persuade him into playing golf.

And while Kidwell doesn’t always advocate dropping sports to focus solely on one, he said he can tell Porter’s dedication is paying off.  

“Some guys decide I’m not going to play a sport and then not put the time in,” Kidwell said. “Jacob put the time in. When he decided not to play golf he changed his body, worked on his skills. I don’t know how many times he and coach (Chris) Merkle have been in the gym working on his skills.

“I still joke with him that he’s still never taken me to the country club to play golf. He made a commitment and stuck to it and he’s seeing the fruits of his labor.”

Porter has become the key defensive stopper for the Red Devils. It seems that no matter who Russell plays, Porter ends up guarding the opponents’ top scorer.

The best example came from the Red Devils’ 16th Region All “A” Classic semifinal game against West Carter. Porter was given the opportunity to guard Kyle Brown, who is 12th in the state in points per game at 22.6.

Brown finished the game with 11 points and scored only two in the second half.

“When we assign him to a team’s leading scorer, he takes that to heart,” Kidwell said. “There have been a couple of games where we put him on good people, and he comes up to me and says he wants to guard the better players.”

“I accept the responsibility,” Porter said. “If (Kidwell is) entrusting me in that role, then I have to take it personal and give everything I have for the team to have overall success.”

In Porter’s senior season, Russell has reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since the 2006-2007 season. He is the team’s second-leading scorer at almost 12 points per game.

For Porter, all the dedication, the points, the games, the summer work — it all comes down to one thing.

“Our main goal is to win a regional title,” Porter said. “Bottom line. That’s what we do every day when we come in here is to work for that goal.”

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at khobstetter@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.