Porath lights up scoreboard, motivates others


Courtesy of UWO Photoshelter — Leah Porath has played at UWO for four years, but with this year not counting towards eligibility, she will be able to play basketball as a Titan for one last year in the 2021-22 season.

Cory Sparks, Sports Editor

Leah Porath is a star point guard on the UW Oshkosh women’s basketball team who has made her name known as one of the best Division III players in the country. But her peers say she is also one of the best people in her community. 

Porath’s basketball roots are deep, as she’s been playing the sport since early elementary school. She started playing basketball at 7, before becoming the accomplished D-III hooper she currently is as the leading scorer on a 6-2 Titans team.

Basketball has played an extremely important role in her life.

“Basketball has been more than just a sport to me,” Porath said. “Basketball brings joy and excitement into my life. It gave me a reason to set goals and strive for accomplishments.”

Porath came to UWO as a 2017 New London High School graduate and a four-sport athlete with four varsity letters in basketball and softball and two in swimming and volleyball.

As a freshman, peers quickly noticed Porath’s humble composure and hard-working intellect. 

“Leah was very quiet at first, but when you got to know her, you quickly found out that she wasn’t the quiet one at all,” said fellow teammate and senior Nikki Arneson. “I would best describe Leah as that teammate who is always the hardest worker on the floor. She is always setting the bar high with her effort and determination.”

Porath’s combination of assertive play and constant humility was noticed by her coaching staff, and she became a household name in her conference, as well as in the country, by the time her junior year rolled around. Her ability to freeze defenders and routinely score in the double digits was on full display throughout her junior season. 

“My first impression of her was that this is a player who works extremely hard on her game, but does so very quietly,” said assistant coach Matt Kelliher, who has known Porath since her junior season. “She plays very aggressively, without arrogance. Her skills are something that any coach would love to have on their team.”

Porath has come a long way since her basketball debut in second grade, as she was named as the 2020 NCAA Division III Public School Women’s Basketball Player of the Year by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, was named as a 2020 third-team all American by D3hoops.com, was voted to the all-Central Region first team by D3hoops.com, was named the 2020 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Player of the Year, was named to the five-player D3hoops.com Women’s Basketball Team of the Week in November 2019 and February 2021 and led the WIAC in points per game in 2020 with 17.5.

Porath’s individual success comes so frequently that as this story was being written, she scored a school-record 30 points against UW-River Falls in the first round of the WIAC tournament on March 1.

Even with all of these individual accolades, Porath identifies her biggest accomplishments as ones that she has achieved with her team. 

“During my time here at UWO, I would say the biggest accomplishments I have been a part of would be winning the WIAC conference tournament twice and making it to the sweet 16 twice,” Porath said. “Being a part of those postseason runs is something I will never forget.”

Porath’s consistent optimism is something that has also caught the attention of those around her, as she always seems to find a way to put a positive spin on every situation.

“When it comes to basketball and life-related things, Leah will always try to look at it from the bright side,” Arneson said. “You rarely see or hear Leah talk or act in a negative way. She is always looking [on the] positive side of things.”

Along with her optimism comes some humor. Even as a hard-worker who takes the process of perfecting her craft seriously, it’s not beyond Porath to make a situation comical.

“Even though she’s quiet, Leah has got a great sense of humor, dry humor,” Kelliher said. 

Porath said she continues to play and work hard at the game of basketball because of the life lessons that the game offers. But she also credits her family’s support for motivating her to continue to better herself.

Porath said she appreciates the way that the game of basketball, and those around her, are able to mold her into a better version of herself.

“I have learned that in order to become your best self you have to set goals and push yourself to achieve them,” Porath said.  “My parents have encouraged and pushed me to become the person I am today. But my support system doesn’t end there. My grandparents, aunt and uncles, cousins, friends, teammates and coaches have always been there for me. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

Kelliher has noticed Porath’s persistence to improve, and he believes that her greatness will extend far beyond the success that she has enjoyed as a collegiate basketball athlete.

“Leah is someone who has the drive and determination to be great at whatever it is she is doing, and after her playing days are over, she will do more incredible things,” Kelliher said. “Everyone should know that Leah is much more than a basketball player; she’s a great person.”

As a senior, Porath is beginning to reflect on the components of college basketball that she will miss most. Her flashy, high-scoring talent has made it clear that she will miss those around her more than anything else as her college career comes to a close.

“I will miss the people at UWO the most. The friendships that I have made these last four years is something that I am truly grateful for,” Porath said.

But, she’s not done yet. With the 2020 basketball season not counting toward player eligibility, UWO’s star has unfinished business to attend to.

“I am fortunate to be able to come back and play one more year,” Porath said. “Hopefully, I will be able to cut down a few more nets and be a part of another NCAA postseason run next year.”