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Well-traveled Porter helps Mad Ants chemistry

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Mad Ants at Sioux Falls

Tipoff: 8 tonight

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Fort Wayne can clinch playoff berth tonight

Friday, April 5, 2013 - 5:29 am

Mad Ants power forward Chris Porter has played for 17 professional basketball teams. No sense stopping now.

Porter has played in the NBA, CBA, USBL, NBA Development League, ABA and in Italy, Puerto Rico, Portugal, South Korea, Philippines and China.

“It's been my life for so long, that's what I'm used to,” Porter said. “My career right now is to be out here with these young guys and get up and go with it. I feel great about myself and wherever God has in store for me, that's where I'm going.”

Porter's journey to Fort Wayne, where he's lending a veteran, wizened point of view, dates back to playing for Ants coach Duane Ticknor when they were both with the CBA's Dakota Wizards.

Porter, 34, came to the Ants with the directive to help build a mentally tougher, physically stronger team. His presence, along with that of other savvy veterans Brandon Wallace and Tommy Smith, has transformed the culture of the Ants.

Fort Wayne (26-22), which plays its final regular-season games at Sioux Falls tonight and Tulsa on Saturday, is one win away from clinching the franchise's first playoff berth in large part because of that culture change.

“That's a tribute to the veteran guys we have here,” Ticknor said. “They bring great leadership. When Demetri McCamey came in, I had Chris and Brandon talk to him about what to expect here. I said, 'That's on you guys.'

“They sat him down and talked about the way we do things here. That takes a load off me and puts it on them so they become invested in the whole thing. I think they enjoy that and it's just been an easy group to coach.”

Porter's playing time has varied over the course of the season. Some nights, such as last Sunday in a win over Texas, he plays a lot. He scored 17 as the Ants won their third in a row and completed a 10-3 record in March. Other nights, he'll play 12 or 14 minutes and put up a handful of points and rebounds.

“As a veteran guy, you want to have that good chemistry, on and off the court,” Porter said. “We get together, we have Bible studies. My wife was in here for a week or so and cooked for the guys and had them come over. That gets people comfortable and when it's time to play we're a family.”

The Ants have a flashy scorer in rookie Tony Mitchell, a player still learning the pro game and being mentored by Porter and others. Ron Howard, the team's venerable scorer, plans to be back next week from a wrist injury and he always adds offense.

But for the most part, the Ants play a team-oriented game at both ends of the court. In the win over Texas, the scoring leaders were Porter (17), Anthony Richardson (17), Mitchell (16), Wallace (15) and Anthony Harris (13).

“Sometimes people get hung up on names and talent – and that's not to say our guys aren't talented,” Ticknor said. “But there's a lot more to putting a team together than throwing the best players out there. I think we have a good combination of youth and experience and the length and athleticism you have to have to win at this level. And we have the cohesiveness those veterans brought.”

Porter says the team is looking not only at reaching the playoffs, but making a run at the D-League title.

“We definitely have a chance,” he said. “The opportunity is there for us. We have to go out and grab it.”