Kevin Porter had a big motor when he played at Beach in the early 1990s. But he never got to see his son play.
For most Rainier Beach basketball games, you don’t know Ayanna Porter is in the stands. She’s not an athlete and doesn’t know much about basketball, still burdening others with questions about what’s happening.
Then she spots him — a mirror image of her husband living through their son Kevin Porter Jr. Suddenly Ayanna can no longer keep quiet.
“I see you!” she often belts.
Boys regional basketball
Glacier Peak vs. Gonzaga Prep at University High (Spokane Valley), 6 p.m.
Kentridge vs. Kennedy Catholic at Rogers High, 8 p.m.
Inglemoor vs. Bothell at Jackson High, 2 p.m.
Kentwood vs. Federal Way at Puyallup High, 6 p.m.
Bellarmine Prep vs. Kamiak at Jackson High, 6 p.m.
Bellevue vs. Squalicum at Mount Vernon High, 6 p.m.
Timberline vs. West Seattle at Bellevue College, 2 p.m.
Stanwood vs. Garfield at Bellevue College, 4 p.m.
Edmonds-Woodway vs. Shorecrest at Bothell High, 4 p.m.
Spanaway Lake vs. Seattle Prep at Bellevue College, 6 p.m.
Rainier Beach vs. Nathan Hale at Bellevue College, 8 p.m.
Cascade Christian vs. Seattle Christian at Puyallup High, 8 p.m.
Lindbergh vs. Kingston at Mount Tahoma, 4 p.m.
The Northwest School vs. King’s at Mountlake Terrace High, 6 p.m.
Porter Jr. is a four-star recruit trying to lead the Vikings to a fifth championship in the past six years. Rainier Beach, which is seeded eighth, plays top seeded Nathan Hale at Bellevue College on Saturday the regional round of the Class 3A boys state tournament.
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“I just love watching him,” Ayanna said of her son, a 6-foot-5, 195-pound lefty. “And he reminds me of his dad. It’s like his dad is living through him, but my son doesn’t know.”
Named after his father, Kevin Jr. knew enough about his namesake to insist his mother enroll him in Rainier Beach and not O’Dea. His goal is to carry out a legacy his father started that the son only knows through bits of stories shared by family, pictures and from Beach coach Mike Bethea, who coached Kevin Sr.
Kevin Jr. was 4 when his father was murdered in July 2004. According to Ayanna, her husband was trying to help a person getting beat up and was instead shot five times.
“It still hurts,” she said. “What happened is still there like it was yesterday. My son turns the negative energy to a positive. That’s why he plays sports. That’s what keeps him going. He’s thinking of his dad, knowing it was what he was doing and what his dad would want him to do to keep his name going.”
Bethea was awe-struck watching Kevin Jr. grow athletically. Former players often tell the longtime coach they’re going to send their sons to play for him. Kevin Jr. is the first who was good enough to also start on the varsity team like their father.
“In basketball, it was all about his athleticism,” Bethea said of the older Kevin. “He’d get 20 rebounds and do all the dirty work for us. I laugh sometimes and tell Kevin Jr. if he had his dad’s motor, he’d be the No. 1 player in the country.”
Kevin Jr. is starting to understand what Bethea means. It’s been a process this season because, although a starter on two teams that reached the state-championship game, he was a third scoring option to Dejounte Murray, who is with the San Antonio Spurs, as a freshman and Pac-12 signees Keith Smith and Sam Cunliffe as a sophomore.
Rainier Beach began to click as a team in a 90-47 regular-season win against Cleveland on Feb. 3. One of its best games was an 88-84 loss in the SeaKing District championship game to Hale, the No. 1 team in the country.
Porter Jr. scored 22 of his 31 points in the second half. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 11 rebounds and four assists per game this season.
“I wish he was here,” Porter Jr. said of his father. “But it motivates me to be there for my family and play hard. … Sometimes I feel there’s a lot (of pressure). But this is what I wanted. I’m not going to make any excuses, I’m going to live up to my expectations.”
Ayanna beams at what her son has accomplished. As a single parent of four she didn’t have money for personal trainers or camps.
“Kevin is one of the most skilled players to ever come through here,” Bethea said. “And once he realizes his real potential, it’s going to be scary.”