November 3, 2010 9:58:00 AM
One skill doesn''t define Porsha Porter.
Yes, the 5-foot-6 junior guard is lightning quick.
Overall, her athleticism could allow her to be one of the Southeastern Conference''s most intriguing newcomers.
Quickness, athleticism, and an ability to score helped Porter earn first-team NJCAA and JC/CC State Farm Coaches'' All-America honors as a sophomore last season as a member of the national runner-up Jefferson College (Mo.) women''s basketball team.
This season, the hope is Porter can mature in those three areas and others to help Mississippi State build on a defining season.
"Porsha has a lot of emotion," MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "I think she will be a player who can shoot the three, who can shoot the jump shot, who can get it to the rim. She can rebound and defend, and I think she enjoys an up-tempo type game."
MSU will try to play with the same aggressive style that helped it finish 21-13 and advance to the program''s first Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last season. The Lady Bulldogs will try to accomplish that goal with a cast that includes one senior with college basketball experience, five junior college transfers, and four freshmen.
The degree of difficulty MSU encounters as it tries to find replacements for eight seniors will depend largely on the ability of Porter and the other newcomers to piece their talents together.
Considering Porter averaged 14.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season, she figures to be one of the players MSU will look to first as it assembles a starting lineup. Fanning-Otis said Monday at the team''s Media Day that Porter would have been in the starting lineup Tuesday if the team played.
It remains to be seen if Porter will be a starter at 2 p.m. Sunday when MSU plays host to Montevallo in an exhibition game at Humphrey Coliseum. But Porter showed Sunday in a closed scrimmage against Delta State she appears to be ready to accept that challenge.
"I expect a lot out of her," said junior center Catina Bett, who called Porter ''P.'' "Her defense is tremendous. She was on her game. She was knocking down shots and her defense was great. We''re expecting a lot out of her this year."
Fanning-Otis said Porter would start at a two guard and could see time this season at point guard. With so many new players, rotations and plays are still being formulated, but Porter showed in two years at Jefferson College she can play with the best. She shot 44 percent from the field, 35 percent from 3-point range, and averaged four assists and four steals a game. As a freshman, she averaged 11.2 points and five rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 3.4 steals.
"I think Porsha has probably the most overall athleticism of the three (players MSU signed from Jefferson College)," said Kevin Emerick, who coached Porter, Ashley Brown, and Elyseia Dunn last season at Jefferson College. Emerick is now the men''s basketball coach at Lincoln Trail College (Ill.). "Porsha just has to be a little more consistent shooting the ball and with her decision-making. Otherwise she is an All-America type of kid with athletic ability who can play with anybody."
Emerick knows MSU assistant coaches Greg Franklin and Franqua Bedell, who both coached former MSU players Armelie Lumanu, Chanel Mokango, and Rima Kalonda at Southeastern Illinois College. He feels all three of his former players, especially Porter, picked a great school because of how MSU likes to play. He thinks that style and tempo suits Porter because she can blow by people.
"Her separation speed in the full court is amazing with our without the ball," Emerick said.
Porter hopes to showcase that speed in a key role this season. She believes she is a better fit at the two guard and that she can handle the basketball and use her skills to score more effectively without it in her hands.
"To be an All-American I just have to put the work in and put shots up on my own," Porter said. "It is just effort. That is what (assistant strength and conditioning) coach (Richard) Akins says. That is what I believe."
Porter said it has been a "big transition" to MSU and she understands a lot is expected of her this season. That doesn''t seem to faze her, though. In fact, she seems eager to get started.
On Monday, Porter showed she already has a rapport with Bett as she finished a sentence for her. They then joked this year''s team has plenty of "characters" that helps it when it is on the floor because everyone has a better feel for each other.
How well that will translate to results on the court is uncertain, but Emerick said Porter has the potential to make a lot of things happen.
"Porsha is a pro-type player," Emerick said. "I think she can play anywhere on the floor."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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