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Former Valley star surfaces in Erie

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Monday, Jan. 25, 2010

It's a question uttered often at Highlands basketball games.

What ever happened to Damon Porter?

Don't worry. The reigning Valley News Dispatch Boys Basketball Player of the Year is still hooping, although not where some expected.

In fact, if you've heard of Porter's school, you might be an expert on small college basketball.

Porter, a 6-foot-2 guard who helped lead Highlands to a 20-8 season last winter, is starting for Mercyhurst North East, a Division II junior college near Erie.

A high-ankle sprain has slowed the freshman a touch, but Porter is trying to polish his game for NCAA Division II coaches who may have missed the boat on him.

A year or two at Mercyhurst could springboard him to a higher level of basketball.

"I'll play a year and if I get any looks, I'll move on," Porter said. "I guess it depends on how I play and who sees me. The coaches don't start watching until conference games."

Porter was heavily recruited by Houghton (N.Y.), but when things didn't work out -- Porter was seeking an educational scholarship but did not get one despite strong grades -- he looked at other options.

In the meantime, Rick Klimchock, Porter's AAU coach, got in touch with Mercyhurst regarding Porter.

"Damon is a very smart player, and any school would be fortunate to have him," Klimchock said last year.

A talented defensive player, Porter turned into a steal.

"I had heard of (Porter), but I assumed he had already committed to another school," Mercyhurst North East coach Dave Gahan said. "I spoke with (Klimchock) and he put me in touch with Damon. We think he can compete at the four-year level. But he wanted to come to a junior college first and then see what other options are out there."

The second-leading scorer in Highlands history with 1,375 points, Porter has taken on more of a defensive role in college.

He's the stopper, the defensive specialist assigned to guard the other team's scorer.

Offensively, he's moved from point guard to the two- and even three-guard spots.

His stats aren't overpowering -- a scoring average under 3 points per game, 45 rebounds and 12 steals and 14 assists in eight (four starts) -- but he still is an impact player for the Saints (4-8).

"He's playing pretty much the entire game for us," Gahan said. "He has a great attitude and he's a great defender. I haven't seen many on-ball defenders like him; how he moves and stays after guys is incredible."

Much like his senior year at Highlands, Porter has accepted a lesser role on offense.

"I am more of a drive-and-kick guy," Porter said. "I am more of a penetrator this year."

Porter said the level of competition remains high for Mercyhurst, which competes in the Western New York Athletic Conference of the AJCAA (American Junior College Athletic Conference).

"There are a lot of Division II and some D-I guys," Porter said. "We played a team that had two Division I forwards. There's a lot of talent at this level."

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