Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Young Highlanders want to build off last year

Heathwood Hall’s Jeff Whalen Photo by Mike Maddock

Heathwood Hall’s Jeff Whalen Photo by Mike Maddock

The Heathwood Hall Highlanders and head coach Jeff Whalen are hoping to build off a strong finish to the 2021-2022 season where they made the SCISA 3A playoffs, a year after missing them.

The 2022-2023 Highlanders will be young, as only one starter returns, JD Gardner. Will Frick will move into a starting role this year. The remainder of the starting unit includes sophomore Nicolas Nichols and freshmen Jackson Noble and Deuce Claxton.

Backups include Kamauri Hunter, Patrick Belk, and Myan Patel.

“ We think we can build off last year,” Whalen said. “I feel that the newer guys are going to be really good when they gain some experience. They are just getting used to playing varsity basketball. Other teams will be bigger. We just have to play through it.”

The Highlanders are currently 1-3 with the lone win coming against Fox Creek. Heathwood Hall still has tournaments like the Baron Classic, the Steel Hands Tournament, and the Neely Roundball Classic all before the end of the year.

Whalen believes the nonregion slate will prepare his team for a challenging region schedule that includes an improving Ben Lippen, Augusta Christian, an always loaded Cardinal Newman, and a tough Hammond.

Toward the end of last year, rumors began swirling of Whalen’s impending retirement, which turned out not to be true.

“I love coaching. It was the best part of my day when I was the athletic director,” Whalen said. “I want to do it as long as they want me here. I don’t have a timetable. As long as I enjoy coaching, I want to continue.”

Whalen expects his team to reach the playoffs again. Other goals are to win a region title and improve throughout the year.

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