Jacked up about the Vols

Tennessee and coach Cuonzo Martin may be dipping into hoops-crazy Kentucky for a basketball prospect. Sign in or subscribe to InsideTennessee now for all of the details.

While John Calipari is busy jetting across America to recruit McDonald's All-Americans, Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin is trying to steal a prospect out of his Kentucky counterpart's backyard.

Jack Whitman is a 6-foot-9, 210-pound junior at Lexington Catholic High School, located just a few miles from Rupp Arena. He visited Tennessee's campus several days ago and reportedly enjoyed himself thoroughly.

"He thinks very highly of Kent Williams, and he's very impressed with Cuonzo Martin," Catholic High coach Brandon Salsman told InsideTennessee.

Whitman's recent unofficial visit was his second tour of the Knoxville campus in the past six months.

"We played in a tournament in Southern Kentucky that was about an hour from Knoxville," Salsman explained, "so we brought the whole team down and watched Tennessee practice. This was his second trip to Knoxville, and he likes it down there."

Apparently so. Whitman has decided to play summer ball for the Tennessee Travelers, who are based in Knoxville. Ten former Travelers have gone on to play college ball for the Vols, including Vincent Yarbrough, who is the lead assistant for the 2012 Travelers' 17-and-under team. Ex-Vols JaJuan Smith, C.J. Black and Brandon Wharton also represented the Travelers at one time.

Whitman averaged 20.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game last season for Catholic, which ranks as one of Kentucky's premier programs.

"We're the winningest program in the state of Kentucky since 1990," Salsman said. "We've won over 80 percent of our games during that time and we've won 20 games every year since 1989. We've sent players to a number of good college programs. We've had a number of good players come through here, and Jack's definitely one of the better ones."

Whitman's biggest game last season came in Paris, Ky., against Dixie Heights, when he posted 30 points and 22 rebounds. He had another impressive effort against Sylvan Hills High of Little Rock, Ark., producing 19 points and 15 rebounds in helping Catholic beat a team led by 5-star prospect and University of Kentucky signee Archie Goodwin.

Voted Most Valuable Player for the city of Lexington as a junior, Whitman is expected to be a first- or second-team honoree when Kentucky's all-state teams are announced.

An honors student, he is being heavily recruited by Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Purdue and Virginia. He already has offers from William & Mary, Duquesne, James Madison, Bucknell, Richmond, Princeton, Harvard and Yale.

Interestingly enough, Whitman comes from a football family. His dad (Harry) was a defensive lineman at Vanderbilt in the 1980s and his brother (Will) earned Freshman All-America recognition for Harvard's football team last fall.

Despite his height, Jack Whitman projects to play a wing position in college.

"We kept him in the post and he shot 61 percent," Salsman said. "But the future of his game is on the perimeter. He's a 6-9 ball-handler and he actually shot 33 percent from the 3-point line."

Like current Vols Yemi Makanjuola and Quinton Chievous, Whitman waited until his mid-teens to start playing organized basketball.

"Jack's only been playing basketball since seventh grade," Salsman said, "so you're just seeing the tip of iceberg. He's very, very athletic and he's got a chance to be very, very special. This summer he's going to learn to put it on the floor and finish."

The high school coach believes Whitman could step in and make immediate impact in Tennessee's motion offense.

"He'd be a great pick-and-pop type of player for Tennessee, with the way they do that with their bigs," Salsman said. "Down the road, though, I believe he's going to be able to play on the perimeter. He'll be a tough matchup with his size and ability. I see no reason he can't. He can be a guy that gets the ball on the wing and takes it past the guy guarding him."

Tennessee has enjoyed considerable success with Kentucky products in the past. The notable ex-Vols include Lefty Walther (Covington), Danny Schultz (Middlesboro), Rodney Woods (Four Mile), Allan Houston (Louisville), Isaiah Victor (Hopkinsville), Chris Lofton (Maysville) and Scotty Hopson (Hopkinsville).

Perhaps Jack Whitman will be the next native Kentuckian to sign with the Vols.

"He's very impressed with Kent Williams," Salsman said. "He'll start paring down his list and making official visits in the fall. I'm pretty sure Tennessee will be on that list."

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