He is not a senior athletically, but he will have a masters degree this summer from Utah State University.

One could easily say Abel Porter has not wasted his time academically while playing basketball for the Aggie men. The junior graduated last May with a degree in business administration and is finishing up his masters in human resources this summer,

This will be it for Porter. He will not be returning for another degree or year of playing basketball at USU. He will be honored on Senior Night on Feb. 25.

“I haven’t talked about it much, but yeah, this will be my last year at Utah State,” Porter told The Herald Journal. “I do have one more year of eligibility.”

But he said it is time to move on.

“It’s time to take that next step in my life,” Porter said. “I’ve talked to (head) coach (Craig) Smith and he completely supports me. The coaching staff has been awesome toward me.”

What is next for Porter is not totally decided. He wants to stay around basketball, but doesn’t know about coaching.

“I’m open to anything right now,” Porter said. “The dream would be to work the business side of basketball. Basketball is what I love and want to be around.”

The three-time academic All-Mountain West honoree has definitely proven himself in the classroom. The 6-foot-3 guard from Farmington has also gotten the job done on the court as well

He was inserted into the starting lineup and stayed there for the last 17 games last season. Porter has started all 27 games this season.

With Porter at the point last year, the Aggie had more assists, fewer turnovers, shot better from beyond the 3-point line, averaged more points and won 15 of the last 17 games.

There are more statistics that point to the team being better with him running the point, but the only one he is concerned with was the final score.

“I’ve always wanted to do whatever helps the team the most and be a team guy,” Porter said. “Winning is all I’ve cared about. It felt good to contribute and be a part of all the success we had. Last year was an awesome experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Porter came to USU the same time Sam Merrill did. In fact, they had been AAU teammates and good friends for 10 years before coming to Logan.

“It’s been awesome,” Porter said of playing with Merrill. “Sometimes you can see the chemistry on the court. It’s a great friendship. It’s nice because we knew each other before all of this. We spend a lot time together. We played AAU together for 10 years, emailed each other every week when we were on our (church) missions and were roommates for two years up here. It’s great to have a teammate you can speak your mind to. It’s great to have a friend you can trust and know outside of basketball you are going to be friends.”

Last May Merrill was a groomsman at Porter’s wedding in Hawaii, where he married his high school sweetheart Presley. Former teammate Crew Ainge was there too.

Porter appeared in three games during the 2016-17 campaign, but scored a point, dished out an assist and had a steal in just 13 minutes of action. An injured foot eventually led to him redshirting.

The following year Porter made four starts and played in 23 games. He started at No. 14 Gonzaga. Then came the magical season of a year ago. He played in 34 games and started the final 17.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” Porter said. “I’m just happy for everything Utah State has given me and all the opportunities I’ve had here.”

Ankle injuries and a balky back have limited him at times, but he shrugs that off.

“It’s no excuse,” Porter said. “If you are good to go, you are good to go. The great part is we are all getting healthy at the right time.”

Yes, Porter wants to go out with a bang. Getting back to the NCAA Tournament is the goal. And he does realize the clock is ticking on his Aggie career.

“I come to that realization a couple of times a week,” Porter said. “It will hit me, then I go to practice and realize I don’t have many left here. You just want to make the most of it. Coach Smith has talked about that, and Sam (Merrill) has too. Yeah, you want to make the most of your opportunities. Four years fly by. You never think you will hit the end, but then here it is and you just want to play your heart out.”

Porter has certainly been trying to do that. Against UNLV last week he tracked down a defensive rebound with hustle when the Aggies really needed a stop. He has scored clutch baskets several times the past two years and on Tuesday at Colorado State hit a pair of free throws with seven seconds to play.

“I need to make more of those plays,” Porter said. “Sometimes they go as unnoticed things, but they don’t go unnoticed to coach Smith and the coaching staff. We always talk about making the winning plays. There are no little things, just winning things.”

For the season, Porter is averaging 6.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game. His assist average is second on the team. He is also tied for third in steals with 18 and fourth on the team in 3-pointers with 19. His 27.6 minutes a game are third most on the Aggie team.

He had his first double-double at USU this season with 10 points and 10 assists against Weber State. Porter also has a game where he grabbed 10 rebounds, but jokes he had nine in the first half and could muster just one over the second 20 minutes.

What does he enjoy most — scoring, rebounding or making passes?

“Honestly, I just take pride in winning,” Porter said. “I’m not a box score watcher. It comes down to, ‘did I do things to help us win the game?’ It’s all about wins. When I was in high school I saw something that said as a point guard how many wins did you get? You are the general, the person that keeps the team together. That’s all I’ve cared about and all I’ll ever care about.”

Porter said he prides himself in thinking ahead and trying to make the right play. He admitted that getting the ball to players like Neemias Queta and Merrill helps him look good.

Asked to single out a favorite memory at USU, Porter couldn’t name just one and, in fact, named a whole week.

“People talk about beating Nevada last year, but I have two others,” Porter said. “Winning the Mountain West championship. The championship game may not have been the most exciting, but when the buzzer goes off and you realize you won the Mountain West Tournament, I don’t know if there is a better feeling than that. It was one of the best feelings in the world.

“The other one is the week before the Mountain West Tournament. We had an awesome game here (Spectrum) against San Diego State. It was the culmination of us coming together. Spectrum Magic was back. All of our goals were coming together. Then we had the Nevada game. People forget we had another game to play at someone’s Senior Night (Colorado State). We pulled it out in overtime. The whole week was an awesome experience.”

As his time at USU winds down, Porter hopes Aggie fans realize he gave his all.

“I would like to be remembered as someone that bought into Utah State culture — working hard, being patient, doing the little things,” Porter said.

Porter would like nothing more than another run at the upcoming MW tournament.

“I think we are getting better every single day as a team,” Porter said. “I think we have figured some things out. You want to be hitting your peak going into the conference tournament, and I feel like that’s what we are doing right now. I feel good about this team.”

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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