As a McMinnville High School graduate, it's not surprising Don Porter, an athlete inductee in the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame "Class of 2000," is a Linfield graduate. However, it is surprising how he got to the college.
After an outstanding sports career at McMinnville High, Porter, a 6-foot-5 forward, attended the University of Oregon and played on the1952-1953 Duck Frosh basketball team. But, he transferred in 1953 to Portland State to play more. Following his sophomore year at Portland State, he was offered a professional baseball tryout. But, if he signed a contract he would lose his amateur eligibility and no longer be able to play any college sports. What to do? He discussed his options with Linfield Hall of Famer Roy Helser, Wildcat baseball coach and a former professional pitcher.
Porter remembers, "He advised me to continue as an amateur, play basketball at Linfield and baseball for Linfield and the Drain Black Sox semi-pro team."
And, there was the influence of Ted Wilson, his McMinnville High coach and future Linfield Hall of Fame basketball coach.
"Ted was my mentor," Porter says. "He helped me make the decision to go to the UO and definitely was instrumental in me going to Linfield and becoming a teacher. He was the strongest influence in my life at Linfield and as a coach."
Wow, what a career he had for the Wildcats. In his two seasons (1954-1955, 1955-1956) Porter was, and is, Linfield's only two-time basketball All-American. Also a Northwest Conference all-star, after his senior season, his jersey number, 34, was retired. Although a conference-leading scoring powerhouse, he was unselfish.
Linfield Hall of Famer Paul Durham wrote in his "Dodging with Durham" sports column in the McMinnville News-Register, about Porter's outstanding performance versus NWC rivals the College of Idaho and Whitman: "He's a great player because of his completely unselfish play and because he would rather win than star and rather feed for a bucket than score one himself."
Porter's amazing Wildcat performances included a 1955 game in Linfield's Riley Gym against the C of I's Elgin Baylor (who went on to star with Seattle U and LA Lakers) and R. C. Owens (San Francisco 49ers).
After graduating from Linfield in 1956, he was drafted by both the National Basketball Association St. Louis Hawks and the U.S. Army. He played on outstanding Fort Gordon, Ga., Army basketball teams. Following the Army, he returned to Linfield, earned his master's degree and Wilson helped him land his first teaching-basketball coach job, at Beaverton, Ore., High School. He went on to success leading the Tigard, Ore., High basketball program and as head basketball coach and student activities director at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Wash.
Porter says, "Linfield means everything to me. It gave me my foundation for becoming a teacher and a coach." In return, Linfield benefited and honors him by his induction into the Linfield Athletics Hall of Fame.