Heathwood Hall is looking to up the ante in boys basketball this season. The Highlanders welcome the return of four starters, eight lettermen in all from a team that went 21-9 a year ago, finished second to Cardinal Newman in SCISA Region 1-3A and advanced to the quarterfinals of the independent schools state tournament.
“Eighty three percent of our scoring is back and overall team speed and quickness remains a strength,” said veteran coach Jeff Whalen, who is entering his 12th season at the Highlanders helm.
“But we must develop a tough mindset and learn to play defense at all times. Transition defense was a weakness last year and we need to improve in that area. We must take better care of the basketball and improve our assist to turnover ratio.”
The top returning players are junior forward Corey Littlejohn (19.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.3 apg), senior guards Mac Whalen (12.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Morgan Whalen (7.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and sophomore guard Joseph James (6.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg).
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Coach Whalen’s assessment of his top four veteran hands:
“Corey is very talented and he who can definitely play at the next level. Has worked very hard over the summer and pre season to improve his strength, ball handling and outside shooting. Becoming a leader on the team. Several Division I programs have shown interest.
“Mac is a very good ball handler with good range on his jump shot. We look to him for leadership. Should be able to play in college at the D-II or D-III level.
“Morgan is one of the hardest working players on the team and we look for him to be an outstanding defender again this year. Does not mind mixing it up under the boards. Outside shooting has improved along with his ball handling. Will be one of our leaders this year.
Joseph is a talented young player that stepped in last year and did a nice job for us. He has grown and gotten stronger to go along with his maturing as a player. Work ethic in practice has improved tremendously. Has a chance to be a special player."
The rest of the varsity team features 6-2 senior forward Joseph English, senior guard Taylor Zurcher, junior guard Andrew Hickman, 6-3 senior center Belton Amaker, 6-3 junior center Davis Verbrick, 6-2 freshman forward Shelton Whittaker and sophomore guard Jance Shine.
Hickman, Zurcher, and English are returning letterman.
Heathwood Hall opens the season on Dec. 3 at home against Wilson Hall.