COLUMBIA —Marcus Whitt had to make a choice about Saturday. The sophomore at Hickman plays drums in the school’s concert and marching bands. He is also a member of the boys basketball team.
Saturday, he had to choose between All-State Band auditions and basketball practice. Whitt is the only member of the basketball team in the band. He chose basketball practice.
“My first love is basketball, then comes track, then comes band,” Whitt said.
His family encouraged Whitt to get involved in both activities. He started basketball when he was young, in part because it is a popular sport to play on his father’s side of the family.
“He said I was a natural when I first got the rock,” Whitt said of his father. “So ever since then I’ve been loving it.”
Later on, another family member encouraged him to pursue music.
“My mom really got me into it,” he said. “She said I should take an instrument. And I kind of liked it, so I got in the marching band.”
Whitt is in his second season playing basketball for Hickman. Last season, he had to take a bus after school each day at West Junior High school to practice at Hickman. This year, as a sophomore, he attends school at Hickman, meaning he is in the same building with his teammates all day. He said this has helped him work better with his teammates.
“It builds chemistry in the team,” Whitt said. “Because as a freshman, you don’t really get to hang out with the team. But as a sophomore in the school system, you get to hang out more and all that. Being in there, it makes it stronger.”
This season, coach Kenny Ash decided not to have any freshman do what Whitt did last season, a decision Whitt said he understands.
“Some of the freshmen out there, they’re pretty good,” Whitt said. “But at the high school level and the way we play, it’s better for them to play at the ninth grade level.”
Sunday, Whitt was back at his first love when Hickman beat Poplar Bluff 57-51 in Norm Stewart Classic at the Arena of Southwell Complex at Columbia College to improve to 4-0 on the season.
Two early fouls meant Whitt spent much of the first half on the bench, watching his team slip into a 23-10 halftime deficit. He said he spent the time on the bench observing the action to see what he could contribute when he got back in. The 5-foot-9 guard decided to focus on the inside game.
“I said that we had to play help-side defense,” Whitt said. “So I would jump off my man, help on help-side defense so they couldn’t get it in. So they had to force up 3’s.”
Senior point guard Eric Franklin was sick Sunday and the decision to have Franklin play was made just before the game.
“I don’t know if that had an effect on our team,” Ash said. “Maybe because we’re young and a leader maybe not going to play.”
Franklin had a scoreless first half. He scored 15 points in the second half as the Kewpies came back to win the game.
“What an unbelievable performance by him and gutsy,” Ash said. “And our guys just followed along.”