Jack Whitman, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound redshirt junior power forward at William & Mary, will graduate with a degree in kinesiology and health sciences May 13 at the Williamsburg, Va., school.
“It’s the study of the body and its movements,” Whitman, a native of Lexington, Ky., told The Star on Tuesday, noting he carries a 3.0 grade-point average with him as he moves to Kansas, where he’ll be immediately eligible to play basketball as a graduate transfer for the 2017-18 Jayhawks.
“There were a couple of reasons,” Whitman stated of reasons for leaving the Colonial Athletic Association school where he averaged 10.1 points (66.0 percent shooting; 59.7 percent from the line) and 5.4 rebounds a game last season. He was second on the team in blocks with 34.
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“One, I didn’t have anything to do academically here next year for a master’s. Two, I wanted to get out and develop into more of a stretch 4 — an outside-oriented game to go with a face-up game. Kansas has great big men. I wanted to be part of that.”
The Jayhawks, who have filled their allotment of 13 scholarships — they’ll be one over the limit if Svi Mykhailiuk decides to remove his name from the 2017 NBA Draft — have big men on the roster in Udoka Azubuike, Dwight Coleby, Mitch Lightfoot and incoming freshman Billy Preston. Transfers Dedric and K.J. Lawson can practice but cannot play in games next season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.
“I mean I’m not guaranteed anything (minutes). I feel they are thin at the 4-5 spot. I can definitely help out,” said Whitman, who averaged 22.1 minutes a game while starting 26 games for the Tribe (17-14).
Whitman scored 13 points (4-4 shooting, 5-6 from the line) and grabbed four rebounds while playing 16 minutes in an 88-67 loss Nov. 23 at Duke and had three points and six boards while playing 19 minutes of a 91-58 loss Nov. 14 at Louisville.
After electing to transfer in March, he scheduled visits to North Carolina, Clemson and George Washington. His visits to North Carolina and Clemson were canceled “for different reasons,” he said.
He first heard from Kansas on Friday.
“I was in contact with coach (assistant Norm) Roberts over the weekend and I talked to coach (Bill) Self a couple of times. He offered last night (Monday),” Whitman said. “Kansas I felt was the right fit.
“I didn’t need to visit,” added Whitman who is planning on visiting KU’s campus in mid-May prior to the start of summer school. “I will work as hard as I possibly can to earn whatever I can. I’m excited. An opportunity like this to play at Kansas doesn’t come often.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there. I don’t know any of the current players. I’m looking forward to being part of the tradition next year.”
Whitman, who was not ranked by the recruiting services while averaging 19 points per game as a senior at Lexington Catholic High School, chose William & Mary over some Ivy League schools and Florida Gulf Coast.
A member of the Tennessee Travelers AAU program, he was not recruited by Kentucky, a team KU plays on Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic in Chicago.
“I don’t know how my friends back home in Lexington will feel about it,” Whitman said, with a laugh, of his playing against Kentucky.
Asked if he followed the Wildcats as a youth, he said: “I don’t think you can live in Lexington and not be a Wildcat fan.”
Tribe coach surprised
William and Mary coach Tony Shaver was caught off guard back in March when Whitman told him he’d be transferring.
“It threw us a little curveball, that’s for sure,” Shaver told dailypress.com in an article written in April. “One thing we do a great job of is keeping our guys on track to graduate. They value the education here and Jack decided he wanted to graduate with his class. He was very close to those guys he came in with. And he wanted to have a new experience.”
The Daily Press asked Shaver about the emergence of 6-10 freshman Nathan Knight, who averaged 8.2 points with 41 blocked shots last season.
“Probably part of it was a very talented young player behind him,” Shaver said. “I can’t speak for that, but we have a young talented player who will fill in very well for us.”
Whitman to play in Italy
Whitman will be eligible to play in KU’s four exhibition games in Italy this summer.
“I talked to coach Self about that. It was attractive to me to get with the guys and have (10) practices this summer and learn as much as I can,” he said.
▪ Whitman’s father, Hank, played football at Vanderbilt. His brother, Will, was a lineman on the Harvard football team and was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, honoring the outstanding freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision in 2011.
▪ Whitman redshirted his freshman season, then averaged 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in 11.5 minutes per contest in 2014-15. As a sophomore he averaged 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.
▪ KU now has seven transfers on the roster: Whitman, the Lawson brothers (Memphis), Coleby (Mississippi), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Sam Cunliffe (Arizona State) and Charlie Moore (Cal).
Moore and the Lawsons will practice but not play in games next season in accordance with transfer rules.
▪ Self, as of Tuesday afternoon, had not announced the addition of Whitman. He cannot comment until paperwork is processed.