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Standing tall: SWE hoops, Porter look to take advantage of height

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SouthWest Edgecombe's Keishon Porter attempts a shot Thursday during a game against Northern Nash in the Nash County Christmas Tournament at the Rocky Mount Event Center. The 6-foot-4 junior entered the tournament averaging 25.6 points per game.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Thursday, December 20, 2018

In the span of just one year, Keishon Porter went from a fine player on a struggling SouthWest Edgecombe basketball team to the Cougars’ star.

And it all stemmed from a breakout football season this past fall where Porter emerged as a top-tier wide receiver. With success came confidence.

“Everyone knew they were throwing to him, and even though teams knew he was getting the ball he still went up and made plays,” Cougars basketball coach Shelton Langley said. “And it’s like that in basketball. Teams know we want to get the ball to him, and he knows that if you’re going to be that guy, you got to do it in all situations.

“I think for him, doing it during football made it easy for him to know that he can do it again.”

Porter, whose Cougars dropped a 74-50 final to Northern Nash in the first round of the Nash County Christmas Tournament on Thursday night, is fresh off a breakout football season where he caught 16 touchdown passes. He was the driving force in a change of offense as run-heavy football coach Jonathan Cobb implemented more passing plays in order to take advantage of Porter’s athleticism.

Langley is finds himself doing the same.

At 6-foot-4, Porter combines a blend of size and mobility. Through five games this season and heading into the three-day Nash County Christmas tournament, Porter has averaged 25.6 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. All of those numbers are up from a sophomore season where he was the second-leading scorer with 10 points per game.

Now, in his second season on varsity, the junior has scored at least 22 points in each game this season, has a season-high of 32, and has displayed an ability to score in a number of ways.

“In middle school I was kind of short so I had to play like a guard more,” Porter said. “In ninth grade I hit a big growth spurt and went past 6-feet. Then I kept on growing and now I’m 6-foot-4.

“But I had spent a lot of time growing up working to get my shot so I still play like that, but now I’m more of a slasher and trying to use that to my advantage.”

In his fifth season as the boys’ basketball coach at SWE, Langley has never coached a team with more height than this season’s Cougars. Eight players on the roster stand at least 6-feet tall, and Langley has found himself dreaming up ways to take advantage of the height.

The wealth of height means that Porter doesn’t have to be stuck standing underneath the basket. Other players can move into the post while Porter picks his spots on the wings. And it’s been a busy offense so far that works to create mismatches.

“A lot of our plays are trying to get him guarded by someone who is slower than him or shorter than him, or both,” Langley said. “As soon as that happens he takes advantage of those mismatches. And even though (a layup or dunk) is two points, if you get him above the rim doing his thing, that’s a boost for our team.”

Last season, Langley explained, Porter was more of a passive player as just about everything went through senior Savion Staton — now playing at Sandhills Community College. 

“KP was in his shadow,” Langley said. “But it was like the whole team deferred to Savion. Now, I’ve been very excited how much he’s stepped up since Savion graduated. He can do it all.”

“All” includes several acrobatic dunks. 

Jayden Lewis, the Cougars quarterback who threw for more than 1,200 yards this past season, is second on the team in points with 13 per game, and has 3.4 assists per game. In a Dec. 13 win over Southeast Halifax, Lewis tossed a lob to Porter who finished with a dunk.

The two hooked up on that same play earlier in the season in a win over North Edgecombe. In both instances the Cougars were on the road, but that didn’t stop the crowd from enjoying the display.

“He threw the lob to me and that had everybody going crazy,” Porter said.

At 3-3 after Thursday’s loss to the Knights, the Cougars are just two wins away from matching last season’s total. And with several exciting young players to work with, SWE is interested to find out how tall it can stand.

The team will be back in action on Friday night against East Wake, a 5:30 p.m. tip at the Rocky Mount Event Center.

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