Portmann reflects on historic UMBC run

Max Portmann returned home to Wichita Falls after his UMBC Retrievers made NCAA history / Source: KAUZ
Max Portmann returned home to Wichita Falls after his UMBC Retrievers made NCAA history / Source: KAUZ

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - A few days later, it's still all sinking in for former Rider Raider Max Portmann. The well-traveled college junior had the experience of a lifetime this past weekend as part of maybe the greatest upset in NCAA men's tournament history.

"It's starting to settle in, but it's still kind of a little unreal to me that it all actually happened," Portmann, who is home for spring break, told Newschannel 6 on Wednesday.

His Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers were a #16 seed facing the Number-one overall seed in the tournament, Virginia. No 16-seed had ever beaten a #1 in the men's tournament, until the Retrievers did.

Portmann remembered when he knew the upset was sealed: "There was a pair of back-to-back 3's, I can't remember what time it was in the half but that was when I was like, 'OK this is like, we just won this game. They don't have a chance of coming back at this point.'"

While the whole country was in the middle of falling in love with the underdogs, Max's dad, MSU Associate A.D. Kurt Portmann, almost missed the game because of prior plans:

"My wife and I went to a One Republic concert, so sitting in the third row, watching the game on TNT on my phone," the elder Portmann said. "So it was, you know, really enjoyable. Quite a shock, though."

The moment was the culmination of a long road for Max, who signed with Colorado Mines out of Rider, redshirted and then transferred to Temple College where he played two years before going to UMBC.

"Once I left School of Mines, I had no idea any of this was going to happen," Max said. "It's just, it's really special to me. Where I started and ending up here."

During this season, he got off to a good start but missed 14 games with a viral infection that caused nerve issues in his legs. He finally got back in for the closing seconds of the Retrievers' second-round loss to Kansas State, getting the chance to take the floor in the 'Big Dance.'

"It was a great experience, you know it's something that you dream about as a kid," Max said. "And even though it wasn't the ideal circumstances I would have wanted, just to be out there on the court, that was still really special."

"You know, this has been an up-and-down year for him," his father said. "As far as, I wouldn't even really call it an injury, just an illness that affect, really affected his legs. If he could have come back a little bit earlier, I think he could have helped a bunch in that K-State game."

After the win over Virginia, Max and his team were instant celebrities, all over ESPN and making a lot of waves in the online gaming world for their "Fortnite" obsession.

And forever, the answer to the trivia question will be Max and his Retrievers.

"That still hasn't really set in yet," he said. "There was talk even of like a '30-for-30,' so that just doesn't feel real yet. So maybe that will set in here pretty soon."

For the season, Max averaged 4.1 points and 1.9 rebounds for the 25-11 Retrievers. He has one year of eligibility left next season.

The NCAA Tournament resumes Thursday night at 6 p.m., right here on Newschannel 6!

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