High School Sports

Heathwood junior steps into limelight

Columbia, SC 2/17/10 Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestate.com --- Corey Littlejohn is the top player for Heathwood Hall boys basketball team, which starts the SCISA playoffs on Friday.
Columbia, SC 2/17/10 Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestate.com --- Corey Littlejohn is the top player for Heathwood Hall boys basketball team, which starts the SCISA playoffs on Friday.

A year ago, the four-year reign of Pinewood Prep High was ending with Milton Jennings and the Panthers hoisting another Class 3A SCISA championship trophy.

Jennings went on to be named a McDonald's All-American and signed with Clemson. His teammate Kenny Manigault is averaging 8.3 minutes per game at Wichita State.

With the loss of those high-profile players, it left SCISA open for other teams - and players - to step to the forefront. Corey Littlejohn has Heathwood Hall in the thick of things as the playoffs open Saturday. The Highlanders will play host to Florence Christian at 2:30 p.m.

Littlejohn, a junior guard, is averaging 21.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the Highlanders (20-5). He would like to use the playoffs as a springboard to a stellar senior season and to increase his recruiting stock.

"Without a doubt, he's one of the top two or three (players) in SCISA," Heathwood Hall coach Jeff Whalen said. "I can't think of many other players in SCISA this year that will be Division I players."

Wofford, College of Charleston, Davidson and Virginia Commonwealth, among others, have inquired about Littlejohn. Wofford offered him a scholarship after watching him face Ben Lippen this season.

Littlejohn is content with the accolades that have come his way. He scored his 1,000th career point this season, but he knows a deep run in the playoffs will make him more of a recruiting commodity.

"Our team is based around a team concept, and my teammates have helped me get involved a lot," Littlejohn said. "When we play together, that is when it really comes out that I can be a really good player. I can rebound and pass the ball good. It's not about showing I'm the best in SCISA."

A year ago, Littlejohn had little confidence is his outside shot. He shot 16 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, and the majority of his offense came off drives and putbacks.

This season he is shooting 40 percent from 3-point territory, which has made it more difficult for opponents to guard him.

"His outside shot has improved tremendously," Whalen said. "He wasn't a great outside shooter, but he has developed a jump shot and has really improved. He needs to continue to get stronger. His ball-handling has improved, but he still has a ways to go there."

Littlejohn said the improvement came over the summer when he worked with Whalen.

"I took a lot of shots over the summer," Littlejohn said. "I have a lot more confidence in taking the shot now. Last year, I was timid. I have the green light now, and that has opened things up for me.

His increased ability to make jump shots has drawn the defense tighter and allowed him to drive to the basket more, which always has been his bread and butter.

"Teams used to know that I wanted to drive, and they wouldn't respect my jump shot," Littlejohn said. "But now, they don't know what I'm going to do."

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