Driveway games helped Hickman boys basketball standout

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 | 9:20 p.m. CST; updated 9:58 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Hickman freshman guard Jimmy Whitt, right, had 14 points including three 3-pointers in the Kewpies' victory over Poplar Bluff on Dec. 3 in a tournament at Columbia College.

COLUMBIA — Anyone who has ever laced up a pair of basketball shoes knows the difference between playing a game on the hardwood with referees and playing outside on asphalt.

Hickman freshman Jimmy Whitt has been exceptional in leading the Kewpies (14-10) to a No. 2 seed in the Class 5, District 9 playoffs, but it was the tough games he used to play against his older brother Marcus Whitt in their driveway that helped him develop his skills.  

"Out in the driveway they would play and never give each other a break," said Jim Whitt Sr., Jimmy’s father. "Marcus used to make Jimmy cry, he used to beat him all the time, but it helped Jimmy become better."

Marcus Whitt, now a freshman at Tennessee State, was a standout for the Kewpies last year. He is taking premed classes at TSU and only plays recreational basketball now.

Jimmy Whitt calls his brother after every game to discuss what happened. Marcus Whitt sees himself as Jimmy Whitt’s mentor and used the heated games the two had in the driveway as a way to teach his younger brother about the game.

"I would tell him what to work on and help him try and stay focused," Marcus Whitt said. "It's my role as an older brother to be his mentor and teach him things. He has made a lot of progress and still has a lot more to go."

Marcus Whitt said he still thinks he has the upper hand on Jimmy.

"I still think I could beat him, I am a bit stronger, I used to rough him up a lot." Marcus Whitt said.

Jimmy disagrees.

"I would win, definitely," Jimmy Whitt said without hesitation.

While Jimmy Whitt is mild-mannered and humble on and off the court, the composure that has allowed him to be so successful as a freshman on varsity disappears when he plays his brother.

"When we play we say some real personal stuff that we know about each other that gets each other going," Jimmy Whitt said. "I can’t say it here, and if there were refs there while we were playing, we would both get thrown out. The two of us would get too many technicals."

While Jimmy has his brother to thank for teaching him his toughness, it is his father that has developed his basketball talent.

Jim Whitt Sr., who played basketball at Indiana Institute of Technology and on the Indiana Pacers’ rookie team, has coached his son since he began playing basketball.

"I coached Jimmy’s AAU team, and he always did well against older competition," Whitt said. "He is a good shooter, and a very unselfish basketball player. He is better than I was when I was a freshman."

Jimmy Whitt leads the Kewpies in scoring at 13.9 points per game and has the responsibility of being the Kewpies' primary ball handler.

Hickman coach David Johnson said he has been impressed with the progress Jimmy Whitt has made since the beginning of the season.

"I knew it would be difficult for him with the type of teams we were playing and the quality of guards, and he showed inexperience at times," Johnson said. "But as the season progressed, he has done a fantastic job. His confidence has improved tremendously. I am very, very happy."

Jimmy Whitt will play this summer for KC Pump N Run, the same AAU team that produced Missouri stars Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon. Jimmy Whitt has aspirations of playing basketball after college and lists Indiana University as his dream school because of his father’s ties to the Hoosier state.

"I would love to go to Indiana. I have been to Assembly Hall a bunch of times, and I have a lot of family there," Whitt said. "Ultimately I want to play Division I basketball and play in the NBA."



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