FSU head Coach Leonard Hamilton doesn't look it, but he's 64 years old. Long ago he was a star high school basketball player in Gastonia, North Carolina, and he began his college career at the local community college. But once he left for Tennessee-Martin he was out of North Carolina for good.
But throughout his career he has maintained his ties to his home state. He's cultivated relationships with high school and AAU coaches. And he goes there and wins recruiting battles. FSU currently has four players from the state.
(6-3, 185) grew up in Cherryville, just down the road from Gastonia. His family was rooted there, and Whisnant stayed home instead of transferring to a big high school, largely because of his family. That, and he got to break all his father's scoring records. He was Mr. Basketball as a senior – the only 1A public school player to ever win the award. And he scored. A lot. He averaged over 32 points a game.
Then he enrolled at FSU and promptly spent his freshman season on the bench. According to guard Ian Miller, Whisnant was "shocked at the talent at FSU." Sitting behind three senior guards, plus Mike Snaer and Miller, Whisnant only averaged 7 minutes a game. And that doesn't count all the games in which he never saw the floor.
Fast forward to his sophomore year.
In the preseason, head coach Leonard Hamilton said this: "I tell our players he can shoot if he sees the orange," Hamilton said of the color of the basketball rim. "I don’t do that for many players. I’ll do that for him. If he can see the orange on the rim then it’s a good shot. I want him to understand that."
Coming from Coach Hamilton, that's about as much praise as I've ever heard him offer a sophomore. In other words, this kid can shoot.
But the reason he said it isn't just that Whiz is a great shooter. He said it because Whisnant lacks confidence, and he was trying to cultivate his emotions. He's never adjusted to the college game, and he lets one miss turn into two or three. Shooters need to have the shortest memory in the building, but Whisnant hangs on to his misses.
This year started out great. He was making 44% of his 3s through mid-January. But then the wheels came off, and Whisnant only made 19% the rest of the way. He was supplanted by freshman Aaron Thomas, and over the final 8 games of the season he totaled 23 minutes.
Now he's headed to ECU, where he'll have to sit out a season.
So what should ECU fans expect?
Personally, I think this is a great move. ECU has a good team, but they don't have anywhere near the talent at 2-guard that FSU has. When Whisnant looked around he saw four guys who could play 2-guard (Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas, Montay Brandon, and incoming freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes) and all four were consensus top 100 recruits. Miss a few shots, and it was easy to see what might happen.
But at ECU he'll have a chance to be the go-to scorer. And that's the role he relishes. He did it in high school, and he's capable of doing it in college. He just needs to confidence to believe he can do it.