Greg Whittington has plenty of options
The calls to Jon Browne's cell phone started last summer. At first, it was mostly mid-major Division I programs calling to express interest in Greg Whittington, the Oakland Mills coach's star player.
Then came a trip with HCYP Elite in late July to the AAU Nationals in Orlando, where Whittington powered his rec-center squad to a stunning third-place finish.
“After Orlando, it was just the beginning,” Browne said. The phone “just never stopped ringing.”
Seven months later, the recruitment of Whittington has reached another level. The 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward now has his pick of high-major offers.
“If you haven’t heard of him by now, you haven’t been doing your homework,” Browne said. “He’s national now. Washington, we’ve been in touch a couple times. Texas came to a practice, [and] Texas should be back this week. Maryland, daily contact with them. Georgetown is in daily contact with me. Clemson, daily contact. DePaul is very involved. They come out a lot, talk to me daily. These are teams that really want him. So we’re just waiting until the end of the season to take some trips, get on campus and meet teammates.”
Whittington came to Oakland Mills in the fall of 2007 as a 6-4 guard slotted for the junior varsity. Browne called Whittington up to the varsity for the final six games of the year, and the freshman ended up starting the final four contests of the year, including a first-round playoff loss to Central. While he didn’t score much that year, Whittington impressed Browne with his skill and potential.
“He could do things that other guards couldn’t,” Browne said. “He could shoot, handle the ball. I didn’t know he was going to turn into the freak he is now, but I knew he was going to be special in terms of Howard County. We started to see that as a sophomore. The scoring wasn’t there as a sophomore – not even 200 points all year. But certainly, he started to develop. He was a great rebounder, shot blocker, defender, and he was quick, too. So he did a really good job for us.”
Whittington grew out of the guard position heading into his junior year, but kept those perimeter skills and put them to good use on the block and on the wing. He was a first-team All-Howard County selection, finishing in the Top 10 in the league in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Whittington was a “double-double [threat] every night,” Browne said. “He dominated players last year. He just took off in the playoffs. [I thought] ‘Wow, this kid is going to be special next year.’”
All season long, Whittington has proven his coach’s predictions right. Whittington averages 24.5 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3 steals and 2.8 assists for the the No. 4 Scorpions (22-0), who play in the District V championship game against Broadneck at Mount Hebron on Wednesday night before starting their Class 2A state playoff run at home Monday against the Central-Patuxent winner.
“He can play with anybody,” Browne said. “Some coaches think this kid has more upside than anyone in the country. He can jump out of the gym, he’s long at 6-9, can shoot the 3, he blocks shots, and he runs like a gazelle. There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s got great vision in finding the open guy. It got to the point where Nike came out and looked at him at one of our games. And the Nike scout said he was five stars in all categories.”
Whittington’s emergence as a national recruit has coincided with his improvement in the classroom. Before his senior year, it looked like Whittington could be bound for prep school. Browne had a conversation with Whittington before the school year began, telling the senior that he needed straight Bs in his core courses to meet NCAA qualifying standards.
“And he said, ‘Coach, I can do it. I can get straight Bs,’” Browne said. “And he got all As and one B first quarter, and all As and one B last quarter. He’s getting straight As, which has really changed his numbers. He’s going to hopefully end up with a 2.6 [grade-point average], which puts him, with his SAT score, it makes him eligible right now. That opens the doors. He’s really worked hard as a student this year. It’s a maturation process for him, and he’s come a long way. We at times still struggle with his maturity on the court. But he’s just come so far. I have such a good relationship with him, that at the end of the day, I know he’ll be fine.”
On the recruiting front, Clemson, DePaul, Georgetown, Maryland and Texas have been the most persistent in the pursuit of Whittington. Browne and Whittington have been to games at Maryland and Georgetown, and they intend to visit the other three schools after the conclusion of Oakland Mills’ season. Browne said Maryland has “shown the most love out of everybody.”
“We talk to [Terps assistant] coach Bino [Ranson] more than any coach,” Browne said. “He’s been more proactive in the recruitment than anybody. He’s been to a lot of games, talked to us a lot of times and been with us. I haven’t had any conversations with Gary [Williams], though. I’ve been told that’s not what he does, that it’s his style. I just don’t understand it. We’ve talked to every other head coach.
“[DePaul coach] Oliver Purnell was in our gym last week. [Georgetown coach] John Thompson came and watched our game last week. So I think those schools have a tremendous chance. Clemson was one of the first schools – they were coming up before the season started. We’re definitely going to take an official down there once the season’s over to see if he likes it. They’re very intriguing with the way they play. It was very interesting seeing their statistics on how many shots the big men are getting beyond the arc.”
For now, Whittington is completely focused on leading Oakland Mills to a state championship. After the season, he will turn his attention to picking a school. At the moment, Browne thinks all five schools are on a relatively level playing field in Whittington’s mind. While his senior season is nearing its final stage, Whittington’s recruitment is just getting started.
“The local schools have just as much of a chance as anybody, if not more so,” Browne said. “At the end of the day, Texas is very intriguing, especially right now. … [But] he just turned 18 last week. The wind changes directions [as much as] he changes his mind.”