Lincoln High School sophomore standout Isaiah Whitehead played on the home floor of his possible future school on Saturday night. You can bet he wishes he could get a do-over.
Lincoln Railsplitters fell to Boys & Girls High School in the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) semifinal, 72-63, in a game that was mainly one-sided. Despite a strong push by Lincoln in the final minutes, the deficit that had been built in the third quarter proved too costly.
St. John's University's Carnesecca Arena was the home of the newest installment of a rivalry that has defined metropolitan high school hoops for decades. Even those who rarely follow New York City high school hoops know who Lincoln and Boys & Girls are. It catches your eye.
(Isaiah Whitehead - Photo courtesy of New York Post)
On Saturday, I got my first in-person experience of PSAL basketball. The middle Connecticut high school ball that I'm used to tempts no worthy comparisons. The game quality is better, the crowds are louder, and the stakes are higher. You can see why Walter Berry, Stephon Marbury, Lorenzo Charles, Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Anthony Mason, and countless other NBA stars started their careers in this league.
Someday, Isaiah Whitehead would love to add his name the such a list. His natural talents seem to indicate that he's moving in that direction. But the young, budding star will probably forget about this performance.
More, below the fold.
Don't be mistaken. Isaiah Whitehead will be a tremendous player at every level in which he plays. You have plenty of time to get to know his name. It's remarkable how early he is becoming known around New York and beyond.
The 6'4'' guard from Coney Island has garnered heavy interest from Rutgers, St. John's, UConn, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Syracuse, USC, and Xavier. And he's only a sophomore. Who knew you in your second year of high school? The only recruiting scene I participated in was for intramural basketball.
Whitehead, who scored 13 points in the losing effort on Saturday, showed signs of his potential and why the hype is worth it. He's smooth with the ball and holds a keen ability to be creative around the basket with shifts, spins, and no-look passes. His stroke is nearly flawless and his shot's touch benefits him.
Unfortunately for the young guard in what was probably one of the biggest games of his short career, the visions of potential and a template for greatness are all observers can extract from the performance. Early foul trouble, questionable decisions, and a rather immature attitude plagued Whitehead and his team against Boys & Girls.
Before college scouts and coaches from Rutgers, Fairfield, St. Francis (NY), St. John's forward Moe Harkless, hundreds of eager fans, and the Rumble, Whitehead struggled to get comfortable. A flurry of missed shots (mostly from the perimeter) and unwarranted offensive fouls kept him from unleashing. Whitehead has also been nursing a high ankle sprain all season.
As basketball enthusiasts, we can understand off-nights. You can't be Superman seven days every week unless you're actually Superman. I'm sure Superman was imperfect once or twice during his second year on the job. Whitehead didn't make the majority of his shots, which isn't worrisome.
It was his body language and questionable decision-making that was a bit troubling. After committing his third foul in the second quarter, Whitehead was pulled from the game. He subsequently sat on the floor with his head down next to the bench for a few minutes as his teammates continued on.
As Lincoln began regaining momentum in the fourth quarter, head coach Dwayne Morton was forced to constantly sub Whitehead in and out of the game for offense-defense purposes. When the Railsplitters cut Boys & Girls' lead, which had once reached 19 points, to just 8 with 3:30 left, Whitehead threw a careless pass that led to an uncontested lay-up at the other end.
He's just a sophomore in high school. He won't be a freshman in college (when we will continue to call him 'inexperienced') for another three years. We're not expecting Whitehead to be Mr. Maturity. But there is certainly room for improvement. Luckily, he has time and confidence on his side.
Despite Whitehead's forgettable performance in the PSAL semifinal on Saturday, there is no denying his future. When he announces the program he will play for at the collegiate level, there will be one overly-excited fan base and many disappointed others. He's that talented.
Boys & Girls moves on to play in the PSAL final next Saturday at noon against Thomas Jefferson at Madison Square Garden. On the girls side, Murry Bergtraum (Manhattan) will meet McKee Staten Island Tech (MSIT) at 10am.