Despite quiet summer, Whitehead’s recruitment on the rise

Despite quiet summer, Whitehead’s recruitment on the rise
Photo by An Rong Xu

Save for a trip to Las Vegas near the end of the July recruiting period, Isaiah Whitehead hardly left Coney Island. Lincoln’s standout rising sophomore instead relentlessly worked out and caught up with a few classes.

His recruiting hasn’t suffered, however.

After picking up scholarship offers from St. John’s, Rutgers and Syracuse previously, Pittsburgh recently offered Whitehead. Arizona has gotten into the mix, along with interest from Miami, North Carolina and Kentucky.

The 6-foot-4 combo guard spent mornings in class, taking an English and science course, afternoons working out with Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton at New York Sports Club and evenings playing in local leagues or in older pickup games.

“I was gonna take the summer off anyway, to get better so for next year I could be a better leader,” he said. “Playing a lot of AAU could’ve made me better, but working out got me stronger, it helped my ball handling and I got quicker.”

He showed off those improvements off in the Battle of the Boroughs, scoring nine points for Brooklyn in a 66-61 loss to eventual champion Harlem. Whitehead threw down a crowd-pleasing tomahawk slam in the first half, flew by highly ranked Kyle Anderson with a spin move later and blocked a few shots.

“He’s gained a little bit more confidence in his skills,” Morton said. “He’s been working on his athletic ability, getting stronger.”

Whitehead took an unofficial visit to Rutgers in early August and said he enjoyed the visit and liked the coaching staff. He was scheduled to see Syracuse on Saturday, but pushed back the trek upstate until early September. He may also take a visit to Pittsburgh before school begins.

His mother Ericka Rambert isn’t sure how worthwhile the unofficial visits are at this early stage, but said they will definitely go to Syracuse, the alma mater of Whitehead’s favorite player, Carmelo Anthony. She thinks the time off this summer was good for her son, who went from a busy summer last year to a hectic first varsity season that culminated with him leading the Railsplitters to the PSAL Class AA title game at Madison Square Garden.

“Basically, it’s a mental rest of doing the same thing all the time,” Morton said. “It’s always good to get a rest from the norm. A lot of guys that are in his position, when they get to be a senior they are already worn out, playing so many tournaments in so many years.”

Whitehead did get an opportunity to get out of the city once, flying cross country with the Juice All-Stars to Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Fab 48 event. Juice went 3-3, but Whitehead left an impression on several big-name coaches, including Kentucky’s John Calipari, according to sources, in a loss to the nationally ranked Oakland Soldiers.

“He needed a rest, he was overwhelmed,” Rambert said. “It was good for him because the next two summers he’s not gonna get a break.”