PITTSBORO — After the Northwood boys basketball team’s resounding 67-23 win over Jordan-Matthews on Saturday night, Chargers head coach Matt Brown wasn’t shy in his praise for his team’s point guard.
“I feel like he’s one of many backbones for us,” Brown said. “He controls the tempo. He does a lot of the things that a lot of the other people can’t do. I feel like he’s one of the point guards in the state, for his class.”
A 5-foot-9 guard in the Class of 2024, Whitaker is the Chargers’ very own Swiss Army knife. He does a little bit of everything for Northwood — pushing the pace, distributing to Northwood’s top scorers and serving as a vocal leader on the court. From his on-ball defense, and his own ability to handle pressure as Northwood’s primary ball handler, he has been a key player for the Chargers this season.
Whitaker, who isn’t exactly known for his scoring prowess, can also step up for Northwood as a shooter when needed, as seen in an 18-point performance to help take down Millbrook in December’s Dexter Cooley Showcase.
Breakout moments like this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody who’s kept up with the Chargers, as Whitaker averaged more than 13 points per game last season. However, in his junior campaign, Whitaker has put much more emphasis on his role as a facilitator.
“He knows where to get the ball and who to get it to,” Brown said. “Whether it’s Drake (Powell), Max (Frazier) or Kenan (Parrish) he can see the mismatches, he can see the key points on our offense, and again, he’s a vital role.”
While Saturday’s defeat of the Jets wasn’t exactly a litmus test for Whitaker, he put his skills on display, recording multiple one-handed assists. His court vision was perhaps most obvious in a connection with senior center Kenan Parrish in the first half.
With three minutes remaining before halftime, Whitaker saw Parrish trailing behind. Instead of generating a quick offensive sequence, Whitaker was patient.
“I just waited a little bit,” Whitaker said. “Then I saw him go to the basket and I just gave it to him. He was wide-open.”
After receiving the ball in the middle of the paint, Parrish rose up for an emphatic one-handed slam. Soon, the Chargers were up 41-9 at the half.
“With Fred being the floor general, it’s so easy for us — me and Kenan — to score around the paint,” Northwood senior forward Max Frazier said. “He finds us, like I don’t know how he finds us (sometimes).”
Junior shooting guard Drake Powell, bursting into the postgame interviews taking place on Saturday, voiced his agreement with Frazier, adding: “Fred sees things that other point guards might not see.”
These words of support aren’t just fluff. Whitaker’s stats back it up. Through 15 games this season, the junior is averaging a team-high 3.9 assists per game to go with 8.2 points and 1.4 steals.
Whitaker, on the other hand, isn’t one to brag. He said he’s developed into more of a facilitator this season because his teammates have gotten better. He’s a vocal leader because Coach Brown has been encouraging this since he was a freshman. It’s easy for Whitaker to take charge on the court because “everybody likes each other on the team.”
He doesn’t even know what to attribute his court vision to, besides “maybe just watching film a lot”.
However, the junior didn’t hesitate to answer when asked what aspect of his game he takes the most pride in.
“Getting my teammates the ball,” Whitaker said with a grin. “For sure.”