Whalens and Littlejohn lead Hall
Jeff Whalen is Heathwood Hall’s athletic director and head basketball coach. His sons Mac and Morgan are three–year lettermen on the team that is coming off a 21–9 season and a 7–3 region record. The Highlanders, who reached the quarterfinals last year, are returning all but one starter, and have as one of their goals winning the region in 2009–2010.
“As always, we want to be in the mix for the region title and make the state playoffs,” said Coach Whalen, who is in his 12th year at Heathwood. “I think this group has a good chance of doing that. Porter Gaud and Pinewood still have to be favorites in the state with their programs being on top the last few years.”
Whalen is looking to his senior twins, both playing guard positions, to help lead the team.
“(He) is a very good ball handler with good range on his jump shot,” said Whalen of Mac, who was the second leading scorer on the team with a 12.9 point –per–game average. “We look to him for leadership.”
Regarding Morgan, “He is one of our hardest working players on the team.” Whalen said the team is counting on his defensive skills to lead them to success.
“He doesn’t mind mixing it up under the boards,” Whalen said. “His outside shooting has improved along with his ball handling.”
Whalen is especially depending on Corey Littlejohn, an all–region player “who can definitely play at the next level.”
Littlejohn is the team’s leading scorer (19 points per game) and rebounder (11 per game).
“He has worked very hard over the summer and pre–season to im-prove his strength, ball–handling and outside shooting,” Whalen said, adding that several Division 1 schools have been showing interest in the junior guard.
Sophomore Joseph James is also expected to contribute to the team’s success, along with seniors Andrew Hickman, Taylor Zurcher, Joseph English, and newcomer Belton Amaker.
“Zurcher and Hickman are good outside shooters who have gotten stronger and bigger this year,” Whalen said. “Joseph English is one of the best athletes on the team.”
Junior Davis Verbrick “will also bring size to the inside for us,” along with freshman Shelton Whittaker, who “is a young player who has good quickness and jumping ability.”
Whalen said the team’s challenges this year will be on the defensive side.
“Transition defense was a weakness last year, and we need to improve in that area,” he said. “We must take better care of the basketball and improve our assist–to– turnover ratio.”
The team is also looking to transition physically from the football season, which just ended with Heathwood’s runner up–finish in the state finals.
“I think that we have a chance to be one of the top teams in the region as the season goes on and the football players who have arrived late have a chance to get into basketball shape,” Whalen said.