Fred Hoiberg added a 12th new player to the Nebraska basketball program on Thursday afternoon as Bret Porter, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound combo-forward out of Millard North High School in Omaha, committed as a preferred walk-on.
Blessed and excited to announce that I will be continuing my academic and basketball career at the University of Nebraska next year as a preferred walk on. Grateful for the opportunity from Coach Hoiberg and Coach Sadler and I can’t wait to get to work! 🌽🔴 #gbr pic.twitter.com/ZboFCGPkV2
— Bret Porter (@PorterBret) June 6, 2019
For Porter, Nebraska athletics is a family affair. He's the son of Budge Porter, who played football at Nebraska in the 1970s, and will become the fourth generation to compete in a sport for the Huskers.
“My whole family played football there — my great-grandpa, grandpa, dad and uncle all played football — and I’ve always loved Nebraska ever since I was a little kid,” Porter told Hail Varsity. “It’s always been a dream for me and when I was given the opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up.”
Budge Porter broke his neck while tackling a teammate in practice in 1976 and has been paralyzed since. Porter said he was excited to continue the family legacy.
“To be honest with you, I can’t put words on it,” Porter said. “I’m proud, obviously, to be able to keep it going and I know my dad’s really happy about it. With all the things he’s been through in his life and all the adversity he’s gone through, it means a lot to keep it going.”
Porter has gone through his own bit of adversity. He tore his ACL in June of 2018, cutting short his final season of AAU basketball and putting his senior year with Millard North at risk.
“When I got hurt in June, I was crying,” Porter said. “I was like ‘I’m not going to play my senior year, I’m not going to be able to go play basketball anywhere.’ I can’t believe where I am today but a lot of hard work and probably a little bit of luck too contributed to it. I couldn’t be happier.”
Porter was back on the court less than five months, only missing the first two games of Millard North’s season.
“When I got hurt, they said that it would probably be a nine to 10 month recovery, so that would put me out through the whole year,” Porter said. “I was like ‘I just can’t let that happen, I’ve got to be able to play my senior year with all my best friends.’ I went to physical therapy almost every day and then did a bunch of extra workouts at my house too. I think with the help of God too — He helped me out and helped get me through it as fast as possible. I came back at four-and-a-half months and even then, it was in my mind like ‘I don’t know if I should be doing this.’ But the most important thing is definitely just to play with all my friends and that’s what I wanted. So I did it for that, and this came from it so I couldn’t be more grateful.”
As a senior, Porter averaged 6.2 points on 52% shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals while working his way back into shape. The Mustangs came within a miracle buzzer-beater by Omaha Westside in the district final of making it to the state tournament, finishing 16-8 on the season.
As a junior, Porter put up 13.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 53% from the field. He made his varsity debut as a sophomore, averaging 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals.
Porter showed a deft perimeter touch as a sophomore, converting 28 of his 64 attempts (44%), but made just nine of his four attempts during his last two seasons.
Porter said he had received letters from Nebraska and heard from former Coach Tim Miles during his first couple of years of high school, but the communication “faded away” after his injury.
Then Fred Hoiberg took over and brought back Doc Sadler as an assistant coach, and they reached out to Porter about a potential walk-on opportunity about a month or month-and-a-half ago. They stayed in communication after that first conversation and after visiting campus on Wednesday morning, Porter pulled the trigger. He had been receiving looks form Division-II and NAIA schools before choosing the Huskers.
Porter said he’s feeling a lot like his old self these days, almost a year removed from the injury.
“I think I’m back to where I was,” Porter said. “I don’t feel any slower or any less athletic than I was before. It bothered me some when I started playing at first because I came back so fast but I’m almost at a year now and it feels a lot better and I can tell the explosion is starting to come back more and all those things, which is good.”
Porter fits the mold of some of the undersized bigs Hoiberg has had on past teams at Iowa State at 6-foot-6 with a strong frame, good footwork inside and the ability to step away from the basket to handle the ball and set up his teammates.
“They said they’ve talked to a lot of people about me and did their research,” Porter said. “They said they like my size and my versatility, and to be able to make my teammates better and make some shots too. They think I can be a good fit with the high-tempo offense, so we’ll see.”
Porter will find a few familiar faces in Lincoln when he gets to campus on Monday as he is the fourth in-state player to join the program following scholarship recruit Akol Arop from Creighton Prep and walk-ons Jace Piatkowski from Elkhorn South and Charlie Easley from Lincoln Pius X. All four of them played summer ball together for the Omaha Sports Academy Crusaders under coach Andy King.
“That part’s nuts to me,” Porter said. “Coach King texted me this morning after he saw that I committed and he said ‘Akol, Jace, you, Charlie, why am I not on Nebraska’s coaching staff?’ So I thought that was pretty funny. It’s unreal. I’ve obviously become really good friends with all of them and I’m glad that we get to keep it going and have some familiar faces around, which is awesome.”
Porter won’t have any time to celebrate his commitment. The first summer session at Nebraska begins next week, giving Porter a few days to pack up, by some things for his dorm room and get moved in.
Porter said he’s ready, though, and is excited to be a Husker.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.