Hassan Whiteside: Thundering Potential

Thu, 01/21/2010 - 8:05am
By: Josh Cochran

When entering this old industrial town nestled along the Ohio River, you wouldn’t expect to find one of the best college basketball prospects in the country. The town is home to Marshall University, a school that has produced excellence on the gridiron, but mediocrity on the basketball court.

That has changed this year as the Thundering Herd are off to a 15-2 start and are seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1987. The passionate fans in Huntington, West Virginia can thank 7’0” freshman,
Hassan Whiteside, for a large portion of this year’s turnaround. His performance and enormous potential have made NBA scouts anxious to visit Huntington, West Virginia.

Hassan WhitesideHassan WhitesideThrough 17 games, Whiteside is averaging 12.5 points and 9.4 rebounds, while leading the nation with 5.6 blocks per game. He’s doing this while only playing 24 minutes per night. His production and amazing physical attributes (7’0” 235 lbs with a 7’6” wingspan) make you wonder why a top tier division I program didn’t sign him. The major recruiting services didn’t even rank the Gastonia, North Carolina native among the top 10 high school centers in the country. This is why Whiteside believes he was overlooked, “I thought I was the most underrated player in the country, but I always had confidence in myself.”

Some people may think Whiteside went to Marshall because it was his only choice, but he insists there were other reasons. “People always ask me why I didn’t choose bigger schools like West Virginia, Xavier, Louisville or NC State. I never visited a school that showed a stranger so much love (like Marshall). They really embraced me in the community. It’s a community that has been through tragedy. They’re big sports fans here and their sports haven’t been up to par lately, so I really felt like I wanted to make a difference. All my life I’ve been an underdog, so why not take a college that’s been an underdog and try to put it on the map? I want to make people respect the Herd.”

People are beginning to respect the Herd and they’re taking notice of Whiteside’s game. Some NBA scouts are chattering that he could be a lottery pick this year. He’s certainly still a raw talent, but the tutelage of head coach Donnie Jones and the Marshall staff is paying dividends. “I’m improving everyday,” said Whiteside. “The coaches are telling me that I have all of the attributes, I just have to learn how to use them. The game is slowing down for me.” This has been evident in the freshman’s last four games as he averaged 15.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.3 blocks. Three of those games were against bottom-feeding Conference USA opponents, so the question is can Hassan Whiteside continue this performance against quality competition? He posted a solid performance tonight against West Virginia with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. He’ll soon have the chance to further prove himself, as the Herd will take on top tier Conference USA foes UAB, Memphis, Houston and Tulsa over the next two weeks.

Hassan WhitesideHassan WhitesideHassan Whiteside isn’t one to back down from a challenge and he suggests that his experience at basketball prep school power Patterson School has prepared him for the tough competition that he’s about to encounter. “It (playing at Patterson) really helped me to grow as a player, because I got to go against a lot of highly ranked guys”, said Whiteside. “I got to go against Rashanti Harris (6’8” freshman Georgia State) all the time (in practice) and guys like Andrew Fitzgerald (6’8” freshman Oklahoma), Tiny Gallon (6’8” freshman Oklahoma) and Thomas Robinson (6’9” freshman Kansas). It really made me better. It made me realize how good I had to be.”

When speaking with Whiteside you get the sense that he’s just starting to figure out how good he can be, but he has ambitions of being great. Discussing his potential NBA future, Whiteside said, “A lot of people just get to the NBA and feel like they made it. I don’t want to be just an NBA player. I want to be a great one.”

If he wants to be great, he’s chosen a good role model from whom to pattern his game. “My favorite player is Kevin Garnett, hands down” said Whiteside. “He loves the game probably as much as I do. He’s one of the few players that doesn’t care about diving on the floor, taking charges. Whatever you need, man. He blocks shots, rebounds, scores, dunks on people. I want to be like him, if not better.” Making comparisons to KG at this stage could be quite a stretch, at least from an offensive perspective. Defensively, however, Whiteside compares favorably against many NBA big men. His 5.6 blocks per game ranks third in DI college basketball in the last decade. When extrapolating Whiteside’s statistics over a 40-minute period, his numbers become even more impressive with 9.0 blocks and 16 rebounds. However, questions remain about his strength and his ability to bang against powerful low-post players in the NBA.

That being said, there’s no doubt the 7-footer would benefit from another year or two in college. When asked what a second year at Marshall would do for him, Whiteside said, “It would give me a chance to get stronger and work on my lower body. I just want to keep working hard, because there’s so much improvement that I can achieve.” He stated that he would like to add another 15-20 pounds before next season. More importantly will be the development of his offensive game. He’s still very raw at this stage, scoring most of his baskets around the rim, despite a limited repertoire of post moves. Whiteside shows decent touch on the 12 to 15-foot jump shot, but he hasn’t developed consistency or range to this point. The Marshall center has much room for improvement and the development of his offensive game will ultimately determine how good he can become a the professional level.

Whiteside’s college and NBA future is still up in the air. However, word is quickly spreading that there’s a beast roaming the paint in Huntington, West Virginia and you had better pay attention. “Someone told me when you make enough noise in a room, people are bound to wake up” beamed the 20-year old freshman. Well Mr. Whiteside, you’re making plenty of noise and the basketball world has taken notice.

Photos: Herald Dispatch
NorthernLights666's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2009
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Stay in school bro, we're

Stay in school bro, we're sick of seeing raw 7 footers come into the League, don't get PT and end up being a bust. Gain muscle, develop some post moves, gain experience, have your coach or AD schedule some "real" opponents for you to face, blow it up, and be the 1st pick overall next year.

Disrespect_Me's picture
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Joined: 11/02/2009
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work on your turnaround

work on your turnaround bankshot
your baseline jumper
and the free throw area
its that simple to b an All Star in our league

how many F-Cs in the NBA can make jump shots?

Muggsy's picture
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Joined: 06/13/2008
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I haven't had a chance to

I haven't had a chance to see him play yet, but I've heard things. Sounds like he has a lot of heart & passion, which can lead to a lot of development. I love underdog teams as well, I hope Marshall keeps it up.

gregoden08's picture
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Joined: 05/25/2009
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Still think

Favors is a better prospect. He's like 2+years younger. Always nice to see centers with upside, but can he live up to the hype?

the I in win
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sure favors has a lot of

sure favors has a lot of potential but basically saying someone has potential is like saying "they suck know but might not suck later"

Registered User
Joined: 05/25/2010
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i totally agree with you buys

i think that he should stay in school and get an eduacation as well as striving to be a great baller.. at any moment his dream could be over with an injury so its best to make sure that you can find a job if this happenes.. i mean not every one is a lebron james video highlight reall who will make millions over night..

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