June 14th, 2024

Kodiaks set to honour graduating players Friday night

By Dale Woodard on February 3, 2022.

Orin Porter was the Lethbridge College Kodiaks men’s basketball team’s leading scorer who shot the lights out, yet someone who managed to fade into the background before eventually taking on a leadership role.

Jackson Kasko was the Kodiaks walk-on over five years ago, and when he did walk on, he filled any role thrown his way.

That included playing key minutes at the national championship in his rookie year.

Now, the two graduating Kodiaks will be honoured Friday night when the Kodiaks host the Calgary St. Mary’s Lightning in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference play at 8 p.m. at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.

“Orin has been with us four almost four seasons, minus one for COVID,” said Kodiak’s head coach Ryan Heggie. “He’s always been a dynamic scorer. He’s averaged between 17 and 19 points per game. He has always distributed the ball well and is a good defender. In his first year here he was first or second in shot blocks. He’s kind of an underrated defender.

“He’s actually always taken a back seat in the leadership process because in his first year we had Mike Clemons in his fifth year and in his second year we had Chris Thomson and Jaxon Davison and Jackson. So he hasn’t really taken leadership until this semester as the guy the team needs to follow.”

Kasko, meanwhile, simply walked onto the Kodiaks program in 2016-17.

“I had always known him growing up because he always came to either Kodiaks Basketball Camps or my Heggie’s Hoop Camp. So I’ve known him since he was a high school kid,” said Heggie.

In Kasko’s first year in the ACAC, Heggie recalled when the rookie he watched throughout high school stepped into a veteran situation when the Kodiaks were at Nationals.

“He played the opening night against Quebec,” said Heggie. “Two of our guards got into foul trouble and we had to go down into the depth of the bench and his number got called in a very important part of the game. We needed Jackson to step up and he did. He played about three minutes of that quarter because he needed to hold the fort down and he did as a rookie. I’ll always remember that.”

On Friday, Porter will be joined by some family who will have traveled from a distance to be here.

Flying in from Baltimore is his sister, Kira, while his mother, Heather, comes in from Incline Village, Nevada.

“So that will be exciting,” said Porter. “Beyond it being my last game, they’ll be here and it will be the first time my sister has seen me play. That added on with it being my last game, I’m beyond excited.”

Hailing from 10 minutes away in Coaldale, Kasko’s road to the Kodiaks was a bit shorter than Porter’s.

“Honestly, it’s hard to even think about, even though it’s just a couple of days,” said Kasko – who graduated from Kate Andrews in Coaldale – of Friday’s ceremony. “Obviously, we’re trying to stay focused on every day, but I feel like it’s a culmination of my hard work. I’ve had to work a lot to get here and I’m pretty proud of the effort I’ve given and all of the support I’ve gotten from my teammates, coaches and family.”

After simply going out on the floor and racking up the points, a leadership role fell into Porter’s lap to start the second half of the season and his final half with Kodiaks.

“He’s a unique leader,” said Heggie. “If you’ve ever watched him run out in his game introduction it doesn’t look like he’s leading your team. He walks out and is very calm, cool and collected.

“If you’ve noticed the level of intensity he’s been playing at the last several games, that’s the type of leadership we’re talking about and he’s getting it done on the scoreboard. He had 26 points Saturday night and he was the player of the game at Ambrose on Friday. I think he’s accepted it.”

In Porter’s rookie season, Michael Clemons was the floor general, but Porter was second on the team in scoring.

“In 2020 when Mike and Lincoln (Anderson) left, Orin was basically our top player coming back and in comes Brock Dewsberry, Chase Bohne and Chris and Jackson Davison are back,” said Heggie. “He really took a back seat to Brock and let Brock be who Brock needed to be and Orin was there to back him up. On any given day where Orin was as good as Brock or better, he was just happy he had other guys to be able to help him with the load of scoring and he was fine. He didn’t need (the mindset of) ‘This is my team.’ He doesn’t need that.”

Taking that leadership role has been different, said Porter.

“I’ve tried to be as humble as possible and I like to be a team player and I just like to win. I don’t like to lose. Me trying to do everything I can for the team, I put that first and above being a leader because I know there are other guys who lead better than I can, because I’m just trying to win.”

Kasko was named one of the Kodiaks captains in his third year.

“He took that role on absolutely, ‘I’ll do whatever I can to help lead this program,'” said Heggie. “He has been a kid who leads by example. He doesn’t rah-rah the guys together. He just leads every day by showing up to practice. He’s on time, he’s ready to go, he’s happy for the success of his teammates.”

Heggie said Kasko has only started about 15 games in his Kodiaks career.

“There have been many games he has had to come off the bench. He’s also ready to come off the bench and do whatever the role is that is asked of him. He has never asked me ‘How come I don’t play more?’ in a negative way. We’ve never had a situation where he has disrespected any coaches or any teammates in his whole career here. He’s an amazing young man. How do you replace a guy like Jackson Kasko and what he has done for the program? He’s worked summer camps, fundraised and never missed a practice. He leads and motivates the guys. He helps kids who struggle in their first year of school. He just does all of that without any star power. He just does it.”

That included coming of the bench as a rookie and into a national game like he did in 2017.

“Honestly, looking back at my first year, I’ve had some great moments, but that first year was super special,” said Kasko. “The national experience was unbelievable. Playing with all those guys, especially being so young at the time with a team of veterans, I had zero expectations. When we made it that far and I got to come into the game at Nationals, I was so scared, but I was excited because it felt like I had worked so hard to reach that point and it was almost like a validation. I don’t want to say I was terrified, but it was crazy to think about.”

Replacing Porter will be equally tough, said Heggie.

“He’s an international player and when they come they need to provide offence and defence and they need to be one of your top players. He has been that for the three years he’s been here, for sure. At times, my style of coaching and Orin’s style of practice habits did not quite mesh. We’ve learned to make it work. We’re going to really miss him.”

Porter’s goal after his Kodiaks days is to play for the Edmonton Stingers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.

Kasko also plans to stay around the game, albeit in a different capacity.

“I want to be able to spread it to as many people as I can, whether that’s through coaching,” he said. “I help out at my old high school with coaching there. I just want to remain around the game.”

The women’s game Friday goes at 6 p.m.

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