Published April 14. 2013 4:00AM
Keith Porter (27 ppg) was the rock for New London, as they grew to win ECC tournament
Keith Porter had to be The Man for New London High School if, for no other reason, he was the only one remotely qualified for the gig.
The Whalers are the benchmark for southeastern Connecticut boys' basketball and rarely have to worry about talent. This season, however, was a rare exception because Porter was the only proven commodity returning.
Porter carried a heavy load early in the season as New London evolved. By the time the Whalers hit the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament, they were ready to defend their championship.
They did so with Porter winning MVP honors.
Porter is also The Day's 2012-13 All-Area Boys' Basketball Player Of the Year.
"It was a lot of pressure," he said. "If we ever lost, it always came down to me. People would ask me why we lost. 'What didn't you do?'
"I used that as motivation. Everything bad that I heard about myself, it motivated me and helped me do things to get better."
New London scored 1,585 points this season.
Porter had 676 of those points.
Do the math: Porter accounted for 43 percent of the Whalers' offense.
"There's no question about that," New London coach Craig Parker said of Porter having to do more than some of his predecessors. "We had players that hadn't played with each other, some new faces in the program that weren't varsity players before.
"Keith was the one that we had to revolve around as we pulled things together. As the season went on, we became a much better basketball team than we initially were."
Porter averaged 27 points and scored a program-record 56 in a Jan. 8 win over Fitch. He was an All-ECC Large Division first team pick for the second straight season and earned a place on the Connecticut State High School Coaches' Association's Class LL all-state team.
Porter was one of the 12 players chosen to play for Connecticut in today's Jewish Community Center Schoolboy Classic in Bridgeport against New Jersey.
"He handled (the extra workload) OK," Parker said. "There was definitely a period of adjustment for him. He had played with a lot of very good upperclassmen since his freshman year at New London … so it was definitely a learning experience for him in terms of how to adjust to new teammates, etc.
"But I think, at the end, it came together for us."
Make no mistake, New London wasn't a patsy this season, as it showed in winning its sixth straight ECC tournament title, beating eventual Class L champion Woodstock Academy in the final.
New London measures success by state titles, so it was very un-Whaler like when it was 8-6 after 14 games. It had lost just seven times in the previous four seasons combined.
"We needed to get our chemistry," Porter said. "We always had spurts of it, like the away game at NFA (a 59-47 win). All through the season, we'd be spotty.
"I think the first game of the ECC tournament is where we got really consistent. That's when it (chemistry) was really growing. We just got it together and kept working."
The Whalers proved how much they had grown when they went on the road and beat Glastonbury, the Central Connecticut Conference runner-up, 59-58 in a CIAC Class LL first-round game.
Porter scored 18 during that win, but fouled out with over four minutes left in the game. The likes of sophomores Collin Sawyer and DeAnte Bruton clinched the win while their senior leader watched from the bench.
"That game was scary," Porter said. "I fouled out and felt like I had let everybody down. Sitting there (on the bench) and having no control or anything was tough.
"It was a great feeling seeing them mature in the last five minutes and pull out a win against a great opponent."
Porter hasn't decided where he'll go to school next year. He said that some Division II and prep school programs have shown interest. He likes business, but also likes computers.
"I played PC games, then I started playing with the computer," Porter laughed. "I'd take out the hard drive and CPU. It just became a hobby. I built my own computer. It just became fun."