EDS: SUBS 3rd graf to CORRECT age to 58.
Associated Press Writer
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) -Howard Porter was remembered by wife Theresa as a humble man at a funeral Tuesday for the former Villanova basketball star in a small gothic church on the school's expansive campus.
About 200 people, including former teammates and members of Philadelphia's close-knit basketball community, gathered at St. Thomas of Villanova Church to pay their respects to Porter. At each end of Porter's coffin stood a large blue and white flower arrangement in the shape of a ``V.''
A former NBA player who was working as a probation officer in Minnesota, the 58-year-old Porter was found beaten and barely alive in a Minneapolis alley on May 19. He died a week later. A woman suspected of being involved was arrested over the weekend but was released Tuesday. No charges have been filed.
Six months after they met, while attending a family dinner, an uncle of Theresa's noted her date's name was identical to an old college basketball star. That was the first time she found out that he had been a college basketball player.
``I looked at him and said, 'Who are you?' He was a humble man. He never wanted to talk about Howard Porter the basketball player,'' Theresa Porter said. ``He wanted to talk about Howard Porter the man.''
Porter was a standout player at Villanova, leading the Wildcats to the 1971 NCAA championship game and was selected most outstanding player of the tournament despite the Wildcats' loss to UCLA in the final. But he was stripped of his award and the team's accomplishments were wiped from the record books after it was learned he had begun dealing with an agent before the season ended.
Porter played seven professional seasons but never achieved the success he had in college. He became addicted to drugs but turned his life around and became a probation officer. Villanova retired his No. 54 jersey in 1997.
In her eulogy, Theresa Porter thanked the school and her husband's teammates for their support.
``I want to thank you for welcoming him back home,'' she said.
When she was finished, Theresa Porter received a standing ovation.
Current Villanova coach Jay Wright also spoke. He thanked the Philadelphia basketball community for its strong showing. Also in attendance were Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, former Penn coach Fran Dunphy, now the coach at Temple, and Lafayette coach and Villanova alum Fran O'Hanlon.
Wright related a story about Porter hugging Villanova players in the locker room after a NCAA tournament loss to Florida.
``That was Howard's gift,'' Wright said. ``His grace. His humility, and really, his big heart.''
Former Villanova coach Jack Kraft, who led the Wildcats from 1961 through 1973, former 'Nova standouts Clarence Smith and Ed Hastings also spoke.
Porter's coffin was escorted from the church by members of Nova's 1971 team.
A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday in Eatonville, Fla.

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