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Falcon star picks Fayetteville State

WINDSOR – It’s not too close, and it’s not too far.

That was part of Bertie High basketball player De’Najah Porter’s reasoning for picking NCAA Division-II and CIAA-member school Fayetteville State University over St. Petersburg College and Cape Fear Community College as starting points for the next phase of her basketball career.

Porter actually went through a workout for Lady Broncos coach Eva Patterson-Heath during her official campus visit in March. She was sold on the school and they were just as sold on her.

“They were looking for new players and they said they liked my game, and they were interested in offering me a full-ride scholarship,” Porter stated. “Last week they contacted (Bertie girls) Coach (Alice) Lyons and told them they were going to go ahead and send in the paperwork.”

A shy almost demure lady off the court, Porter knows that with bigger, faster, quicker players in college, she’ll have to change some of her approach to the game.

At 6’ 2”, she led Bertie to the third round (sectional finals) of the 2A state playoffs this past February and a 23-5 record en route to the Northeastern Coastal Conference regular-season title with an 11-1 mark in conference play.

“She’s an excellent athlete,” said Lyons. “Those CIAA players are going to have to keep up with her.”

Porter’s basketball odyssey began at the age of five and went from there to the Windsor YMCA and later organized ball at Bertie Middle School.

Lyons said Porter’s aggressiveness stood out from the first time she took the court as a skinny freshman playing her first year of high school ball under Joan McCullough.  When Lyons got her for Porter’s sophomore year and the next two as well, the rough edges continued to be rounded out.

“I think she learned to play from end-line to end-line because after grabbing a rebound she didn’t seem to know what to do with the ball,” Lyons recalls. “We told her to just dribble, and that did a lot to help her ball-handling.”

Porter barely missed averaging a double-double her sophomore year (nine points, 13 rebounds); but after that they became a routine part of her game: 14 points and 15 rebounds as a junior and finally 17.7 points and 13.3 rebounds her senior year.

Those types of numbers get you noticed by college coaches.

Porter also played ‘travel ball’: in 2013 with the Carolina Lady Hurricanes out of Williamston, and last summer with Lady Express in the Hampton, Virginia Boo Williams Summer League.

Porter plans to major in either Early Childhood Education or Sports Management.

“I’ll probably go with Sports Management because even if I stop playing, I can still continue on, maybe in coaching,” Porter says.

While there’ll be several former Bertie High schoolmates at FSU, Porter already knows she won’t have much time for traveling back home on weekends.

“Her coach will have her so busy her first year she won’t have to worry about trying to come home,” joked Lyons. “The only time she’ll be coming home will be at the end of the season because Christmas she’ll be playing in a tournament, and then there’s that ‘big-time’ tournament in Charlotte (the CIAA) in February.”

“She better be ready to ‘get up’,” Lyons warns. “Because the CIAA is ‘big-time’.”

Patterson-Heath has already told Porter she is going to have to be a leader once she arrives for the Lady Broncos.

“I’m not one to be demonstrative,” Porter says. “I’m sort of a mellow leader, but I still want to be one to tell everybody when we need to get it together.

Porter says she wants to head to Fayetteville early; not so much to get acclimated to college life, but so as to start anew as she leaves high school behind.

“I know I’ll have to hit the weight room and learn not to be late,” she acknowledged with a knowing nod toward Lyons.  “That’s something she preached and preached all season.  Leaders have to be early.”

Former Bertie High basketball player De’Najah Porter (seated, center) signs her National Letter-of-Intent to attend Fayetteville State University in the fall.  Joining the ex-Falcon forward are (seated, from left): BHS girls basketball coach Alice Lyons; Porter; Keyarta Ryan, mother; (standing, from left) BHS athletic director Randy Whitaker; Carshenia Ryan, grandmother; Akia Jordan, sister; Jerry Ryan, grandfather; Daphne Williams, Bertie STEM Principal; BHS Principal Rickey Eley. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

Former Bertie High basketball player De’Najah Porter (seated, center) signs her National Letter-of-Intent to attend Fayetteville State University in the fall. Joining the ex-Falcon forward are (seated, from left): BHS girls basketball coach Alice Lyons; Porter; Keyarta Ryan, mother; (standing, from left) BHS athletic director Randy Whitaker; Carshenia Ryan, grandmother; Akia Jordan, sister; Jerry Ryan, grandfather; Daphne Williams, Bertie STEM Principal; BHS Principal Rickey Eley. Staff Photo by Gene Motley