Oakland Mills star Greg Whittington suddenly being recruited by elite college basketball programs
Sunday, February 27, 2011; 11:35 PM
Nearly all of the nation's top high school basketball prospects spend their summers criss-crossing the country, playing in travel-team tournaments often sponsored by shoe companies. Most work out with trainers. Some even have nutritionists or other specialized consultants. They are used to being scouted by college coaches and often are recruited for several years, many making their decisions well before their final year of high school.
Reed-thin, tall and lanky, the teenager usually preferred hanging out with friends in his Columbia neighborhood. He still does not believe tales of peers getting in the gym early in the morning or late at night for extra practice. He did not hit the summer tournament trail until after his junior year and even then it was with a group of fellow players from Howard County, not known as a hotbed for major-college basketball recruits.
Yet now, somewhat suddenly, the 6-foot-9, 195-pound Whittington is perhaps the Washington area's most sought-after recruit.
Maryland wants him. Georgetown several weeks ago joined the pursuit with Coach John Thompson III driving to Columbia for a recent game. Texas last week sent an assistant coach to watch Whittington play and plans to host him for an official visit soon. Clemson and DePaul are the other schools Whittington is considering.
It is quite a turn of events for Whittington, who spent his first two years of high school thinking that he might be a standout wide receiver in football.
"I was surprised because I really don't think of myself being that good," said Whittington, adding that he thinks he might still be growing because his knees occasionally bother him. "I just come out to play every night. I was very excited when I heard that all these colleges were calling. It's a dream come true to go play Division I basketball."
Until last summer, Whittington was a virtual unknown among most college coaches. A member of the Oakland Mills varsity since late in his freshman year, he always played for the Scorpions' team in local summer leagues and never hit the travel-team circuit. The only schools recruiting him were La Salle and Robert Morris.
Finally, though, Bill Napolitano convinced Whittington to play for his Howard County Youth Program Elite squad. The team had success in tournaments throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, but Whittington did not stand out, Napolitano said.
However, after winning the Amateur Athletic Union state title, the team traveled to Orlando for the AAU National Championship and Whittington had a breakout week as the team finished third. Coaches from top programs, many of whom saw Whittington for the first time when they went to scout a player on an HCYP Elite opponent, started calling Oakland Mills Coach Jon Browne to learn more about Whittington.
"He has really good hands and all the instincts and because he really hasn't played that much basketball, they see the potential too," Napolitano said. "He can handle the basketball and he can shoot threes. He's not selfish. He really sees the floor and gets it. It's not like he's just athletic and makes mistakes. . . . The things people hit the ceiling on, he doesn't have those things. He's not a 6-6 or 6-7 guy who posts up in high school but won't do that in college."
Most recruiters and scouts believe Whittington has barely scratched the surface of his abilities. Dave Telep, an analyst for ESPN, said that Whittington could be like many other taller players, who take time to develop and "are the slowest to become comfortable with their own bodies."