Excelling at the Juggling Act

For many student-athletes, high school was the last chance they had to excel in more than one sport. It was at the end of high school that the dreaded decision had to be made as to which sport to give up and which sport would become the focal point of an athletic career. Luckily for freshman David Whitehurst, this decision never had to be made, as he has quickly become a vital part of the Penn basketball team, and will showcase his talents this spring as a member of the track and field team as well.

Whitehurst grew up around the sport of basketball, picking it up as his older siblings began to play the game. "I started to play organized basketball around second grade, but I was always around the sport. My older brother was always playing and so I had some knowledge of the game before I started playing in any sort of organized league."

In high school, Whitehurst was an integral part of the basketball team at The Lawrenceville School. He was named first-team all prep as a junior and senior and averaged 15 points in his senior season. Yet basketball was not the only team on which Whitehurst was making an impact. The New Jersey native was named high school All-American after finishing third in the 110 high hurdles at the High School Nationals.

It was clear that Whitehurst showed talent in both sports, and wasn't ready to give up on either. "I was good at both and was interested in the prospects of having a good career in both sports. I wasn't ready to give one or the other up. I had always loved basketball and had really come to love track and field."

Athletics were certainly an important part of Whitehurst's college decision process. "I chose Penn because they were willing to let my play both sports. Not to mention that I love Philadelphia, and Penn has the best basketball in the Ivy League. Penn had everything that I was looking for, and allowed me to pursue all of my interests."

Adjusting to college life as a freshman is always a hard thing. Add the pressure of being a two-sport student-athlete and imagine the time constraints that are put onto one's freshman year. Not only is Whitehurst balancing his school work and adjusting to a new social scene, but he must also make sure basketball and track and field are at the top of his list of priorities.

"I started running the track on Sundays this year so that I could stay in shape and get some practice. On my breaks from school, I would go home and hurdle with some of my friends just to keep up a little bit. When it came time for basketball I really had to put track on hold. I took the (indoor) season off as far as training because I didn't have time to focus on both."

That's not to say that Whitehurst is relaxing in his season "off." With the grueling basketball schedule filled with practices and games, Whitehurst is definitely staying in shape and will be ready for the pending track season.

"The connection between track and basketball is clearly always there, but the type of running in the two sports is completely different. With track, it's just a straight shot, instead of the lateral all over the court running you see in basketball. I'd definitely have to say that participating in both sports helps with overall speed though, which is clearly important in both sports."

As his freshman basketball season has progressed, Whitehurst has gotten the opportunity to showcase his talents on this year's winning team. Whether it is career-highs in points, assists, rebounds or minutes, each game is bringing about new chances for the freshman to shine. With talent developing throughout the ranks of the Penn basketball team, every minute spent on the court is important.

Whitehurst, who as of late has been recognized for the role he plays on this Penn squad with two starts last weekend, realizes how important it is to make every minute count, and appreciate the time he gets to spend in the game. "I really appreciate the opportunities that I've been given throughout the season. I don't take any minute for granted and try to take advantage of all the chances that I am given."

The freshman is also appreciating the time that he gets to spend with his teammates, both on and off the court. "The guys on the team are really great. I love being in the locker room and hanging out and talking with them. I've also got a few friends on the track team that I also get to hang out with every once in awhile which makes it even more fun."

Coming onto the Penn hoops squad, Whitehurst knew he was going to need to display hard work and determination. With Penn the early underdog in the Ivy League race, Whitehurst, along with the rest of his teammates, were ready to come out and show the Ivy League the talent that this squad possessed. "That claim was put on us really early, before anybody had the chance to see what we could do. I think now, as we surpass everybody's expectations, we are really showing what we can do, which is win and show everybody the talent that this team possesses."

David's mom is one of the true fan's that has supported this Quaker squad even before they started turning heads this season. "My mom doesn't miss a home game. She's always in the stands, and it's great to be able to talk to her after every game that we play. My mom used to be a basketball coach herself at the high school level so she really knows a lot about the game and its great to get her advice and support after each game that we play."

As Whitehurst continues to excel in athletics here at Penn, family support remains an important part of his development. "I love the support my family gives, and I think the one thing I miss about not being at home is not being able to watch my younger brother play basketball and develop his own game. I'd like to think that I've taught him some of what he knows so I wish I could be there to support him."

While Whitehurst continues to pour his efforts into Penn athletics there is no doubt that he too will continue to develop and become an even more important part of the Red and Blue basketball team. With athleticism running through his veins, Whitehurst's talent will continue to be revealed as the seasons continue.

Written by Meghan Goddard, C'05