From the beginning of the 2014 travel circuit, combo guard Jimmy Whitt bore the look of a national top 60 talent. Presently ranked No. 52 in the Class of 2015, Whitt's rise has been steady but emphatic.
He actually first established himself in 2013 at the Jayhawk Invitational. There, he proved capable of becoming a major wing scorer. His development over the next year largely consisted of developing point guard skills to complement his work off the ball. For that reason, by the time this past April rolled around, he brought several additional dimensions to the court.
He broke out once again at the Under Armour-backed Jayhawk Invitational, playing a key role for K.C. Run GMC. He later attended the Pangos All-American Camp and NBPA Top 100 Camp, and by mid-summer he had drawn offers from hometown Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Colorado, SMU and others.
Many expected the Tigers and Razorbacks — Whitt became familiar with Mike Anderson during the latter's time at Mizzou — to square off for his services, and that's what appeared to transpire as his recruitment entered its late stages.
Whitt decided in favor of Arkansas and gave a huge boost to the Razorback program.
Whitt could have earned his way to a major conference program as a mid-range scoring specialist, but he didn't need to do so. He plays an all-around style that delights coaches based on the wide assortment of abilities he brings to the table.
But he does excel as a mid-range scorer and that certainly will comprise a large portion of his college duties. He shoots a feathery medium-range jumper and is natural and smooth even when contested and even when drifting in either direction. He goes immediately from dribble to shot, and he elevates very well to fire away over taller defenders.
Whitt's athleticism frequently gets understated as well. Though not the possessor of an explosive first step, he jumps very well with a running start and is capable of finishing and-ones with a dunk. His athleticism truly shines when he's finishing in transition thanks to his springs and solid body control.
|Whitt is among the nation's most versatile guards|
Along with scoring, he's a very talented dribbler and actually a better passer than most of the nation's point guards. He appears more comfortable as an off-ball competitor (sees the court better, scores more efficiently) and that's why we categorize him as a SG/PG, but there's no question he can play stretches at point as required.
Defensively, Whitt is quick, rangy and intelligent, enabling him to guard most backcourt foes at either position. He can get overpowered by jumbo wings and blown past by elite quicksters, but most every player struggles to defend players slotting into those two categories.
Though not his forte, Whitt is at least a capable three-point shooter as well. He also rebounds, moves intelligently to facilitate court spacing, uses off-ball screens well, spots mismatches and enters the ball slickly into the post from the wing and generally plays to win, not buff his own numbers or reputation.
Getting stronger will be key, and Whitt's freshman season could be limited contingent upon how much muscle he can add, and how quickly.
He's also only 6-2, fine for the college wing but insufficient by professional standards. Further developing his point guard contributions will be important for him over time as he prepares for the highest level.
Then there's his three-point shot. Whitt's release is slightly odd and may not result in great accuracy from deep as he begins to face college-level closeouts. He's much better faking and dribbling into a shot one or two steps in front of the line, and of course most coaches dislike long two-pointers.
He's also more of a blending-type player than a true dominator, so he'll likely need to combine with an alpha perimeter scorer.
Whitt's team-oriented, structure-friendly style should enable him to become a trusted athlete early in his career. Again, strength issues nothwithstanding, he's mentally equipped to step right in and potentially even start.
The ability to play in the halfcourt is something that can be extremely difficult to gauge during the rag-tag travel season, but Whitt's approach — and the fact that K.C. Run GMC is such a well-polished AAU club — clearly should work in college. He's far ahead of the game in terms of playing in sets, moving without the ball and adhering to basic basketball concepts like spacing and defensive rotation.
Long-term, he'll need to become more of a point guard, but fortunately for him he already enjoys a solid head start. He should be a major early contributor for Arkansas.