Ethan Whitson had 28 points and 12 rebounds last Friday as Northview defeated Terre Haute South in boys high school basketball for the first time in seven seasons, but neither the player himself nor his coaches and teammates thought either occurrence was anything special.
He was just doing what it took to win the game, the Northview senior told the Tribune-Star earlier this week. And the victory? Well, that’s also what the Knights were supposed to do.
“[Winning at South] has to be very meaningful, because it’s something that hadn’t happened in a long time,” coach Clint Weddle said, “but we expected to win. That’s the way [the Knights] have approached everything.”
“We expect to win pretty much every game,” Whitson agreed, “because we practice so hard and we put in so much time. It was a big win for our community, but we’re just ready to move on.”
The Knights did pick a good time to pick up some momentum — “[The South win] helps the mentality going into practice,” Weddle admitted — because this is a huge week for Northview basketball. Although Tuesday’s Owen Valley game was postponed by weather for a second time, the Knights try to keep their unbeaten Western Indiana Conference record intact tonight at home against South Vermillion, then travel to play Evansville North on Saturday.
With the 6-foot-6 Whitson and fellow 6-6 senior Jim Mace forming arguably the Wabash Valley’s best pair of big men, the Knights are hoping to close out this season in impressive fashion.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” Whitson said. “There’s still a lot of stuff we need to work on and fix — like turnovers — but once we get them fixed, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
Expectations that Whitson would help the Knights become a tough team to beat have been around for awhile, ever since he saw a little varsity action as a freshman.
“I dressed for the Pizza Hut Classic [in 2010] and I saw some seconds [of varsity play] here and there,” he recalled this week, but then an injury his sophomore year threatened to derail the plans.
“Five games in [to the 2011-2012 season] I broke the bottom of my kneecap,” Whitson said this week, “and I was out the remainder [of that year].”
Rehab was tough, and not unfamiliar. “I had knee surgery in fifth grade, and another surgery in eighth grade to clean it up,” the player said. But the work he put in has shown up in a stronger, more athletic player by his senior campaign. He goes into tonight’s game averaging 16 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 67 percent from the field and 74 percent from the foul line.
“He’s improved and excelled in every aspect of his game, both physically and mentally,” Weddle said. “That’s due to the amount of time he has put in individually, and he’s utilized that time in a very positive way.
“The work he’s done running and in the weight room has changed not only his body, but it’s made him a lot tougher between the ears.”
“I could still improve as a player,” Whitson agreed, “but the coaches are doing everything they can to help me improve, and my teammates are always pushing me in practice.”
“He’s one of our leaders,” Weddle said of Whitson, “but these guys kind of lead each other by committee. They are very unselfish and they pull for each other.”
“I’m just looking for wins, whether I score 20 points, or 10, or zero,” Whitson said, corroborating his coach’s statement. “ I’ll do everything I can to contribute, no matter what my stat line is.”
Whitson is his team’s leading scorer for the second consecutive season, but until recently it wasn’t a high-scoring team that he led. That, Weddle said hopefully this week, may be changing.
“We haven’t had to search for that guy to put the ball in the basket [recently],” the coach mentioned. “Now Ethan does it consistently, and Jim does it consistently, and we’re getting more scoring from the other guys too.” The Knights are shooting 57 percent from the field as a team, incidentally.
And although Whitson is looking only toward his team’s goals the next month or so, a successful second half of the season for Northview could help create opportunities for a 6-6 forward capable of scoring both inside and outside to find a place to play a year from now.
“There will be a place for [Whitson] to play,” Weddle predicted, “and he’ll be a productive player, because he’s a good person and a good teammate.”