Jack Whitman stood in the paint 5 feet from the north goal Tuesday in Washburn’s Lee Arena, the University of Kansas big man eager to demonstrate to approximately 100 youths his “go-to” shot on the basketball court.
“The jump hook,” Whitman, KU’s 6-foot-9, 235-pound graduate transfer from William & Mary declared before teaching the inside flip to the group of 6-to-14 year olds attending Washburn coach Brett Ballard’s four-day Ichabod camp.
Whitman, who averaged 10.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game in 2016-17 at the Colonial Athletic Association school, swished all but one of his attempts during the drill, which had the attention of the kids as well as co-guest speaker Barry Brown of Kansas State.
Rest assured it was easier for Whitman to score Tuesday than in June workouts against KU’s assortment of bigs.
“They are all good,” Whitman said of KU frontcourt players Udoka Azubuike, Billy Preston, Mitch Lightfoot and Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, who can practice this season but not play in games until 2018-19.
“Udoka is an animal inside,” Whitman added of the 7-foot, 280-pound Azubuike, a sophomore from Nigeria. “I’ve never played against anybody like him in my life. Mitch is a little different than Udoka. He shoots more (from outside). Billy is more a finesse guy. We all play together well. It (inside play) should be good this year.”
Whitman has been happy to see he fits right in.
“I know I can play with these guys, contribute and help us win games this year,” Whitman said. He heard from coaches from Louisville, Clemson, North Carolina, George Washington and others after he announced plans to leave the Williamsburg, Va., school last spring for a school where he’d be immediately eligible thanks to the fact he’s already graduated with a degree in kinesiology and health sciences.
Whitman doesn’t have a large sample size of plays showing how he stacks up against his fellow Jayhawk bigs.
After being on campus about a week, Whitman took an accidental elbow to the head from 6-8, 210-pound Lightfoot in a drill on June 13 at Bill Self’s camp. Whitman was sidelined 12 days because of a concussion, getting cleared to play full-contact basketball again on Monday.
“It wasn’t Mitch’s fault. I think he got pushed back into me,” Whitman said of Lightfoot. “I had a headache right away. I’ve had concussions before so I knew it wasn’t good.
“Getting hurt wasn’t my plan,” Whitman added, “but I’m getting back into the swing of things. I’m looking forward to going home for a week (to his hometown of Lexington, Ky., for the Fourth of July), getting a couple of days off then coming back and hitting it hard in July (in preparation for KU’s four-game trip to Italy on July 31 to Aug. 8).”
Whitman, who said he’s gained about five pounds of muscle since arriving in Lawrence, had no problem finding his way from Lawrence to Washburn for Tuesday’s camp session.
“I know Lawrence pretty well by now. Other than that I’m still a little lost,” Whitman said with a smile.
Of KU, he said: “It’s great. Lawrence has been great. Practice and everything has been good. Getting to know the guys and the area … it’s all good.”
He likes the idea of playing the four exhibitions this summer.
“Getting to play actual games with everybody and 10 practices (in July) will help me learn the system a bit,” Whitman said.
KU will face a stern test against his hometown Kentucky Wildcats early in Whitman’s senior season.
“Growing up, I went to a bunch of (UK) games, but obviously coming here I can’t really love the Wildcats,” Whitman said, smiling. “With us playing them the first or second game of the year in Chicago (second game, Nov. 14 at Champions Classic), that should be fun.”
Games against Kansas State’s Wildcats also should be fun for the new Jayhawk power forward, especially now that he’s worked Ballard’s camp with K-State guard Brown, who told Ballard’s campers one of the things he needed to do this season was help the Wildcats defeat KU.
“That was fun. I know the kids enjoyed it so that’s what’s important,” Brown said of his comment about beating the Jayhawks during a Q and A with the campers.
Whitman noted with a smile: “I don’t know, man. Everybody wants to beat KU, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t (want to win as well).”
Whitman, who said he had a good time helping out at former KU guard Ballard’s camp, said he hadn’t heard about his new buddy Lightfoot’s recent statement that he’d try to grow a mustache to match Whitman’s by the start of the season.
“I will do it. I’m gonna try,” were Lightfoot’s exact words after a recent Bill Self campers game.
“I didn’t hear about that, but I mean, looking at Mitch’s facial hair now, I don’t think there’s going to be much,” Whitman joked of the baby-faced Lightfoot.