Finding the right fit for your college basketball program isn't just about what happens on the court, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Take a deep breath. You made it.
Barring something unexpected – and it's impossible to completely rule anything out in the modern age of college basketball – Ohio State finally has its 2020-21 roster set. Abel Porter, a graduate transfer guard from Utah State, announced he will play his final collegiate season as a Buckeye next season.
Porter's decision to make the move to Columbus marks the seventh roster move in three-and-a-half weeks.
Out went DJ Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, Kaleb Wesson and Luther Muhammad. In comes Harvard's Seth Towns, Bucknell's Jimmy Sotos and now Porter. The Buckeyes will also have California transfer Justice Sueing eligible to play this year and will add four-star shooting guard Eugene Brown III and three-star power forward Zed Key as freshmen.
After what seemed like a constant roster churn over the past few weeks, Ohio State has once again reached the 13-scholarship limit, and they did so by adding Porter, who will provide depth in the backcourt next season.
On the Court
Nothing Porter does will blow anybody away. He's not a flashy player or a high-powered scorer.
But as a veteran who averaged 25.6 minutes per game as the starting point guard on a Utah State team that went 26-8 and finished last season by upsetting San Diego State to win the Mountain West tournament championship, he'll provide the Buckeyes with a steady, if unspectacular, pass-first option in its backcourt. He'll serve as a backup to CJ Walker and Duane Washington Jr., both of whom will start at guard next season.
Porter played sparingly in his first two years at Utah State before becoming a full-time starting guard midway through his redshirt sophomore season. Here's a look at the stats across his final two years as an Aggie:
- In 2018-19: 21.6 minutes, 5.5 points, 2.8 assists, 2.3 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, 42 percent shooting, 40.5 percent from 3-point range, 71.2 percent from the free-throw line
- In 2019-20: 25.6 minutes, 5.6 points, 3.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.6 turnovers, 38.2 percent shooting, 29.7 percent from 3-point range, 76.1 percent from the free-throw line
Not once at Utah State did Porter ever lead his team in points in a single game, though he scored in double figures nine times last season. As a Buckeye, Porter will again serve as a complementary offensive piece who facilitates more than anything else. Each of the past two seasons, he had a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, ranking fifth in the Mountain West in that category last year.
Porter won't impress with his athleticism or scoring acumen. But as an older-than-average fifth-year senior guard, he will give Chris Holtmann and his staff a veteran facilitator who'll be fine coming off the bench as the Buckeyes chase their ultimate goals as a team.
In The Class
Because of the defections of Carton and Muhammad, Ohio State needed to find a graduate transfer guard. Yet it required finding someone the coaches thought could benefit the team who also didn't mind spending their senior season coming off the bench behind Walker and Washington. Naturally, that ruled quite a few immediately eligible options out.
Porter, after winning conference titles in the Mountain West the past two seasons, decided it was a match.
Here's a look at next season's scholarship grid with the caveat that Sotos, who's ineligible to play immediately next season after transferring from Bucknell, will redshirt:
SETH TOWNS (RS)
||E.J. LIDDELL||ZED KEY|
JUSTICE SUEING (RS)
MUSA JALLOW (RS)
|SG||–||DUANE WASHINGTON JR.||
CJ WALKER (RS)
As of now, because Wesson's expected to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft pool, the 2020-21 roster is set.
Now, Ohio State can begin to shift its entire focus to preparing the 13 players on the new-look team for next season while also recruiting the 2021 and 2022 classes.
Porter took the long road to Columbus.
After graduating from Davis High School in 2014, the Farmington, Utah, native spent two years on an LDS Church mission in Samara, Russia. There, Porter told the Deseret News, he developed “a lot more mental toughness.”
“That’s what my mission provided me with,” Porter said to the Deseret News earlier this year. “I can push through whatever. And that really helped me when I first got here to Utah State and felt kind of overwhelmed, like I was drowning in all of this athleticism and skill around me. That mindset really helped me bounce back from it.”
His college basketball career didn't begin until 2016, when he walked on to Utah State's basketball team. As a freshman, his season was cut short after 24 total minutes due to a foot injury. He played sparingly in 23 games the next year before earning a scholarship on Jan. 24, 2019. Two days later, he hit a game-winning 3-pointer to sink New Mexico. Porter proceeded to start each of the final 17 games in the 2018-19 season, then got married to his wife Presley in May.
As a redshirt junior, he started all 34 games during the 2019-20 season. Throughout the year, he knew it would be his last with Utah State. He wasn't sure whether or not he'd play one more year elsewhere or give up basketball, though.
On March 13, Porter entered the transfer portal.
“I’m looking at opportunities that are out there and making sure I take into account everything I could do,” Porter told The Herald Journal on March 17. “I’m just taking it all in. I talked to coach (Craig) Smith, and he is 100 percent supportive and actually helped me. Right now I’m just seeing if there is a great spot to play basketball and to continue my education. If not, it is what it is.”
Nearly a month later, he became a Buckeye.
Porter, following in the footsteps of one-time Michigan guard Andrew Dakich, becomes the second former walk-on to transfer to play for Chris Holtmann at Ohio State. As a fifth-year senior who spent two years on a mission, he'll also likely be the oldest player Holtmann has ever coached.