FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Thursday night, Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) guard Isaiah Whitehead put up 36 points in a 80-67 defeat of Greenforest (Decatur, Ga.) at the City of Palms Classic. As good as Whitehead is, he’s not even close to being the most highly recruited player on his own team.
That would be post player Thomas Holley, who had twice as many fouls (four) as he did points (two).
At 6-4 and 285, Holley doesn’t even look like a basketball player, but when he was younger, he was one of the top players in New York. Now, however, he’s much more valuable as a football player. Holley, who committed to Penn State’s football team earlier this week, is listed as the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com and the No. 4 defensive tackle by 247sports.com. After the City of Palms Classic, he’s playing in the Under Armour All-American football game Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla.
What’s amazing is Holley didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school. But players who have his bulk yet can play high-level basketball will always be in demand on the gridiron. The thought is he has all the ability and just has to be taught technique.
“Just think how good he would be if he had played football his whole life,” said Lincoln basketball coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton. “He’s pretty good right now, but he would be NFL-caliber right now if he had played more football.”
Holley led Lincoln’s football team to an unbeaten regular season and a Public Schools Athletic League title. He had 60 tackles and seven sacks despite being frequently double-teamed this season.
His basketball teammate Whitehead, who recently committed to Seton Hall, is one of the best outside shooters at the City of Palms, hitting three-pointer after three-pointer. The question is whether he will remain a point guard in college or be a No. 2 guard. At times, Whitehead has great touch, hitting teammates with flair, including a behind-the-back pass to set up a layup for Desi Rodriguez in the first half against Greenforest. But he’s just as likely to get his pocket picked in traffic or shake his head at a teammate after a pass that goes awry.
That will be an interesting question for Morton, who is expected to follow Whitehead as an assistant at Seton Hall next year. Morton has coached his share of standout guards, from Sebastian Telfair to Stephon Marbury to Lance Stephenson, Jr.
Asked if Whitehead, a 6-4 senior, is truly a point guard, Morton says simply, “Sometimes.”
Russell will be back soon
Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) has been playing in the City of Palms Classic without its leader and arguably its best player in D’Angelo Russell, who suffered a slight tear in his left meniscus.
The good news is that the wait is just about over; Russell, an Ohio State signee, said he expects to be suiting up after the tournament concludes.
“I actually got cleared to play, but my dad wanted me to give it just a little more time,” Russell said. “He’s forcing me not to rush back and I think that’s the smart thing to do. I’m just getting my strength back now. It’s hard to sit out, but I’m not worried because I’ll be back real soon.”