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Millard North vs. Lincoln Pius X, 1/5

Millard North's Bret Porter grabs a rebound against Lincoln Pius X in January at Bishop Flavin Gym.

Bret Porter probably never had much of a choice.

His father, uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather all played football at Nebraska, dating back more than 100 years. The Porters' roots in the Husker athletic department are as deep as any family that has sent athletes to Lincoln.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I was kind of forced to like Nebraska, obviously," Porter joked Thursday.

But the path the Millard North basketball player took to a walk-on spot with the Nebraska men's basketball team was anything but smooth.

Porter announced his commitment on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

A 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward, Porter averaged 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game as a junior before tearing his ACL in spring of 2018. As a senior in 2019, he averaged 6.2 points and 4.4 rebounds.

Porter will be the fourth generation from his family to play sports at Nebraska, and the first since his father, Budge Porter, was a defensive back on the football team back in the mid 1970s.

Budge's career was cut tragically short. During a spring practice in 1976, Budge was making a tackle when he was paralyzed after his neck was broken.

"I can't even put words on it. To see what happened to my dad and what he overcame from his injury, for me to keep that going and have him live through me really means a lot," Bret Porter said. "So I'm glad to be able to do it.

"I know he's super-proud of me. I think he seems more happy about it than I am, honestly."

No, Porter didn't have far to look when it came to inspiration to rehab a torn ACL suffered last June.

After his strong junior season and before his injury, Porter said, he was talking to a few colleges about playing at the next level. Those talks all stopped when his ACL gave out.

"That was kind of rough, but that's beside the point," Porter said.

After surgery, Porter went right to work. Not to try and prove wrong the schools that had stopped talking to him, though that surely occupied a space in his mind. 

"I knew getting hurt was going to affect me getting recruited, but my biggest thing was to get back fast enough to play my senior year with all my friends," Porter said. "I didn't want to miss that. So I was like, 'What the hell — might as well rush back. If I get hurt again, so be it.'"

Porter grinded hard through his rehab, finishing in just 4½ months for an injury that generally takes at least six months to get back from.

While he didn't match the stats from his junior year, he still helped the Mustangs to a 16-8 season that ended with a 54-53 district final loss to Omaha Westside on a buzzer-beating three-pointer so improbable it ended up on "SportsCenter."

While Westside's Carl Brown was the hero that night, it was Porter who had given Millard North a 53-51 lead on a bucket with 1.6 seconds left.

A couple of months later in Lincoln, Fred Hoiberg replaced Tim Miles as Nebraska's head coach, and hired former Husker head man Doc Sadler as an assistant.

Shortly after that, Sadler called up the Porters to talk about a potential walk-on spot.

"And ever since then it was kind of, just, we were banking on maybe the chance opening up for me to go to Nebraska, and it did," Porter said. "So I'm really grateful for that."

Porter joins Lincoln Pius X guard Charlie Easley and Elkhorn South guard Jace Piatkowski as Husker walk-ons. Along with Creighton Prep's Akol Arop, Porter gives NU four Nebraska natives on next season's roster.

"I made it through (rehab) thankfully, got to play with my friends, and then this opportunity opened up," Porter said. "So, I got lucky, I guess."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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