Columbus, Ohio • With grit, grind, hustle and heart, Abel Porter provides a special kind of fuel that keeps Utah State rolling.
Porter, is a sparkplug for the Aggies, who have arrived in Columbus for the NCAA Tournament with momentum on their side. USU is riding a 10-game winning streak.
Prior to becoming a starter back in January, the sophomore guard tackled plenty of adversity. As a walk-on freshman, Porter broke his foot early in the season. Last year he averaged around seven minutes a game. Then, Utah State made a coaching change and hired Craig Smith, and everything started to change for him, albeit gradually.
“I had a moment where I said I was going to give myself one more year and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out," said Porter, a Farmington native and Davis High grad. “So, I played my second year and got spotty minutes, started a couple games here or there so I didn’t know what to expect. I never knew where I stood.”
Early on this season, court time remained limited for Porter, who averaged around nine minutes of playing time through the first five contests. However, Porter kept supplying energy in practice, started making big plays in games, and saw his minutes start to swell.
“During my third year I got to meet coach Smith and as the year went on, I got more opportunities and here we are in Columbus, Ohio,” said Porter. "I have to give credit to coach Smith for just believing in me and giving me this opportunity.”
During a season filled with plenty of highlights, Porter has been an accelerator for the Aggies. Across a four-day stretch in January, Porter got his first start of the season, was told he was being placed on scholarship and drilled the game-winning 3-pointer against New Mexico. Not a bad week at all.
“It was a good week and the week before I got engaged so it’s up there with one of the best weeks of my life,” said Porter who will marry his high school sweetheart in May.
Earning that scholarship was a big deal.
“It’s something I’ve been working so hard for my entire life," Porter said. “A lot work really hard to get a scholarship out of high school. I had to work a couple more years. It was a moment of justification because sometimes people see walk-ons as wasting their time and for me to get a scholarship, I felt like everything was justified. The whole time my goal was to earn a scholarship. I was going to show him [Smith] that I deserved that and I continue to try and do that.”
Porter, who wants to make sure he’s helping his team during every possession on both ends of the court, racked up 42 minutes in the overtime victory against Colorado State and 40 minutes in the overtime victory against Boise State when he tallied a season high 16 points.
“I pride myself on being a solid and steady player out there that controls the team and keeps a good pace. I try to let the game come to me whether it be the open shot, driving into the lane or guarding my ball. As long as you play defense you can play," he said.
As Utah State prepares for its first-round matchup against Washington, Porter likes the way things look.
“You could feel the energy boarding the plane [for Columbus],” Porter said. “We walked to the hotel and it’s March Madness all over. I’ve always been a person to go to Salt Lake City to watch [NCAA Tournament] games, so being part of it and watching from inside out for once has been a really awesome experience.”