You know you like a prospect's game when he plays horribly yet still manages to impress. That was the story on Monday night for Isaiah Whitehead, the Seton Hall signee who will bring immediate firepower to the program next season.
But he fired blanks in the third place game at the WWC Classic. Whitehead's 7-24 shooting tells the tale; he simply couldn't get it going from the field, though much of that was self-inflicted.
In the past, when he has not performed as well, Whitehead has demonstrated a one-on-one offensive sensibility. He became more judicious on the travel circuit, exhibiting greater patience and getting cleaner looks, but in Lincoln's defeat to South Atlanta he slipped back into playground mode.
The more Whitehead moves without the ball, and the more he drives in a straight line, the better. When he dribbles continuously on the perimeter, however, he allows his defender to lock into him and frequently pulls up for a very contested attempt.
In a sense, Whitehead can be the victim of his own talent. I always have been impressed because he's such a creative ballhandler. To the extent he forces the action ill-advisedly, the very fact that he's able to force it into something in the first place marks him as a natural scorer. And he makes some of those shots, too, he just isn't as efficient as he's capable.
As a rule, coaches would rather learn to control a player's over-aggression than have to gin it up. Or learn to corral talent rather than create it from nothing. Whitehead is nothing if not talented, and even in a bad game he had a four-point play late, followed by another 23-foot three, followed by an and-one drive.
On one transition foray in the first half, he made several dribbles between his legs while running at full speed. Very few players at any age can do that, and certainly not those in high school.
Whitehead's scoring prowess should translate into a starting position for the Pirates as a freshman. In addition to that, he'll provide expert dribbling and passing from the wing, along with tough defense. He's every bit as good as his top 15 ranking in the country.