If Terry Porter has proved anything throughout his career — spending 17 years as a player in the NBA, including two all-star caliber seasons, his Trail Blazers jersey number hanging from the rafters in the Moda Center — it’s that he’s a winner.
And while coaching might have been a sore spot for Porter in the past, this team may be his chance to prove himself.
When Porter came to his newest coaching job, he took over a struggling University of Portland men’s basketball team. His first season was not his best. With a disappointing record of 11 wins and 22 losses, the team finished last in the West Coast Conference.
This year will be better. In fact, my prediction is the Pilots jump to a top three finish in the WCC regular season standings.
The reasoning is simple: The Pilots got better, and the prominent teams got worse.
The top three teams at the end of the season last year were Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga — despite being the typical powerhouse it has been in the last few years — got hit the hardest, losing three of its key pieces from last season. To say Gonzaga will fall out of the top three in the WCC is a bold prediction, but it may just happen.
Gonzaga lost key players, including its leaders in many areas, such as points, rebounds and steals per game. The three biggest losses include Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the NBA and Przemek Karnowski. Collins and Karnowski made up the dominating pair of seven footers that Gonzaga relied on heavily last year. With Gonzaga relying greatly on junior point guard Josh Perkins and a non-top 20 recruiting class, it just might leave the top of the WCC open for takers.
BYU and Saint Mary’s have similar problems. They are both very young. Saint Mary’s boasts a roster that has six freshmen, more than both Gonzaga and BYU. BYU’s roster is missing one key thing: seniors. BYU has a roster that has everything but seniors — instead they have eight sophomores. Senior leadership will be missing in the BYU locker room, something that can be very important down the stretch.
As for Porter and the Pilots, things are looking up. Porter is entering his second season as head coach for the Pilots and has a year of experience in the WCC under his belt. This should already make The Pilots better — but wait, there’s more.
There is no denying that the Pilots are young, but they come with accolades. The Pilots had the best recruiting class coming in this year in the WCC. The class was ranked 17th overall nationally by Hoop Scoop. : Tahirou Diabate and Takiula Fahrensohn.
Diabate, from Niigate, Japan, lit up the scoreboard to get the attention of coach Porter and his staff. Last year, Diabate averaged 31 points per game and 18 rebounds per game in Japan.
Fahrensohn, from Auckland, New Zealand, is a guard that can do it all. Fahrensohn fills a hole left by guards Jazz Johnson and Andre Ferguson, who both transferred last season. Fahrensohn is a prolific scorer; he proved this skills in the 2016 New Zealand Secondary Basketball National Championships when he scored 33.6 points per game.
Porter will also be joined by his two sons for this season, Malcolm and Franklin Porter. Both redshirted last year, Malcolm as a freshman and Franklin due to his transfer from a Division I team at Saint Mary’s. states that an athlete transferring from a Division 1 team to another must redshirt a year before playing.
The other factor is the young team from last year is now entering this season with knowledge of how the game works at the college level. More experience and multiple incredibly talented freshman will really make the Pilots interesting.
There is no doubt that this will be an uphill climb for the Pilots, but it is one that is possible. With the teams at the top getting weaker and the Pilots getting stronger, don’t be surprised when the team shocks the WCC and rises to the top this season.