The Western Michigan University men’s basketball team has not only gotten off to a strong 6-2 start but the strong individual play of their starting center has already earned him two individual awards.
Shayne Whittington was named Mid American Conference Player of the Week on Monday by the website College Sports Madness only to be named MAC West Player of the Week the very next day by the conference.
Whittington’s play has noticeably improved over last year’s, a fact he attributes to a lot of time in the gym.
“The player is made in the off season not during the season,” said Whittington. “So the work that all of us put in over the summer is where that’s kind of come from.”
Whittington, a Paw Paw, Mich. native, was pleased when he found out he had won the individual awards, but said that everyone on the court had a specific role to play and he was just trying to play his the best he could.
“We work pretty well together, were all pretty in sync,” said Whittington.
Head Coach Steve Hawkins has lead Whittington and the Broncos to one of their best starts in years and credits some of that to the improved play of his starting center.
“He’s developed tremendously from last year to this year, and I think that, you know, him starting now and getting the kind of minutes that he’s getting, he’s getting more and more comfortable on the floor with every game,” said Hawkins.
Whittington’s offense has not gone unnoticed this year as he is the team’s fourth leading scorer averaging 9.1 points per game. He also leads the team in rebounds pulling down 8.3 per game. It is his 12 blocks so far this season, and his play on defense that Hawkins thinks is what has set Whittington apart.
“Defensively is where he really helps us,” said Hawkins. “He’s a great backline defender, he’s a good post defensive player, you know, if teams do drive the ball they got to deal with him back there at the back of it, so, he’s been a great player defensively and offensively and he’s still developing, you know, which is a good thing.”
Hawkins said that while individual accolades are great for the players, as a coach he is after the kind of awards they give to whole teams. However, he said it is not out of the question for opposing teams to try to use awards like Whittington won to their advantage.
“Sometimes coaches on the other team will use it as fodder, you know, ‘hey he was the MAC Player of the Week’… to try and motivate their own players,” said Hawkins.
The Broncos second loss of the season came Tuesday against the University of Michigan Wolverines. In the game Whittington got two early fouls and had his minutes reduced in the first half. While both he and Hawkins said this did have some impact on the game, according to them it was not the reason for the loss to what they both said was a strong Wolverine team.
Whittington and the rest of the Broncos will look to improve their record this Saturday as they go on the road to play Illinois State University in Bloomington, Ill. at 8 p.m.