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Terry Porter: Finding The Best Situation

By Dwight Jaynes

As Coach Jack Ramsay awaited the training-camp arrival of Terry Porter, the Trail Blazers' first-round selection in the 1985 draft, he wasn't quite sure what he was going to get. Yes, Porter had fared well in the tryouts for the 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team -- nearly making the squad. But he was coming out of tiny Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where, at 6-foot-3, he'd played forward. Could he actually make the transition to being a point guard in the NBA?

"You always wonder a little bit how those guys are going to take to the NBA game," Ramsay, Porter's first NBA coach, said recently. "But he showed a lot of confidence and toughness from the start. He never backed down to anybody.

"His first year in the league, after we played the Lakers, Magic Johnson said something that I still remember. He said, 'That little kid is pretty tough.'"

Ramsay laughed as he told the story. "I never thought of Terry as a little kid but that's how Magic described him," he said. "Terry had a great career. And he was such a high-level individual."

Looking back, it's still all kind of a fairy tale to Porter.

"When I first went to Stevens Point, I never thought I'd ever be close to the NBA," he said. "I didn't even think about the NBA. The big start for me was making it to the final cut for the Olympic team and I was the only one who was going to be back for my senior year of college. Then, I figured I had a chance to be drafted. During my senior year, there were NBA scouts at my games. At some point, I guess, I started hoping I'd get drafted by a team where there would be a great situation for me.

"As it turned out, Portland was the BEST situation for me."

Porter would become the all-time leader in assists and three-point field goals for the Trail Blazers. Only Clyde Drexler played more minutes, scored more points, had more steals and made more free throws as a Trail Blazer than Porter. And in 758 games in a Portland uniform, he shot 47 per cent from the field, a very impressive number for a guard who took as many three-pointers as he did.

"I always had questions in my own mind early in my career," Porter said. "I tried to work so hard to prove all the doubters wrong. I had never dreamed about the NBA like some guys did. I was a non-scholarship player at an NAIA college. I played on the Boys and Girls Club team in my freshman and sophomore years of high school before I made the high school team. I was our backup center in college."

He was known as much for intangibles as for statistics. Take it from current Trail Blazer head coach Nate McMillan, another blue-collar player from Porter's era who was strikingly similar to the Trail Blazer guard in areas of toughness, leadership and integrity for the game.

"He came to work and did his job," McMillan said. "He didn't care when other people got the attention. He played the game hard and he played it the right way. One area where I think we were alike is that he wouldn't be afraid to say what needed to be said -- whether it was to an all-star or a young guy who needed to be led."

Over and over, people say the same things about Porter. He was the total package.

"Tough mentally and physically," McMillan said. "I wouldn't say he was great in any one area but he was good at everything. No weaknesses."

And so much of what he became he owes to just plain old hard work

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