What to expect from KU hoops newcomer Jack Whitman

While playing for William & Mary, Jack Whitman (right) reached for the ball in a game last November against Duke. | Gerry Broome | The Associated Press

By Jesse Newell jnewell@kcstar.com

Following Dwight Coleby’s transfer announcement earlier this week, the Kansas men’s basketball team is likely to be more reliant on William and Mary graduate transfer Jack Whitman, who is one of four post players eligible next season.

Let’s take a closer look at what type of player KU is getting in the 6-foot-9 forward.

Strengths

Half-court scoring: Whitman’s offensive numbers from last year are excellent across the board, as he shows the versatility of a player who can score in many ways. His most frequent scoring came in post-up situations, where Synergy’s logs ranked him in the 90th percentile at 1.04 points per possession. He has good patience in these spots, preferring to shoot with his right hand over his left shoulder.

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Whitman also appears to have good hands for his size and shows an ability to catch difficult passes on the move before finishing. He ranked in the 76th percentile on cuts to the basket and the 95th percentile as a roll man off the pick-and-roll, meaning that guards and big men alike should be comfortable passing it to him in space.

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Drawing fouls: Statistician Ken Pomeroy uses 60 percent minutes played as a cutoff for his statistical leader boards. Under that criteria, Southern’s Jared Sam led the nation last year with a free-throw rate (free throws shot per 100 field goal attempts) of 89.5.

Whitman — he played 55 percent of William and Mary’s minutes — did not qualify, but if he did, his free-throw rate of 94.9 would have led the nation. The big man also drew 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranked 54th nationally.

These numbers tell us two things: Whitman doesn’t force bad shots (he was a 66 percent two-point shooter) and he also has a knack for creating contact.

Offensive rebounding: Whitman has been able to hold his ground inside while also using his quick hands to grab rebounds.

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He also has a knack for snagging his own misses, using a quick second jump to beat his defender to the ball.

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Whitman ranked 146th in offensive rebounding percentage last season, though there was one caveat: Synergy only has him as an “average” finisher following on putbacks, meaning he still can be affected by shot-blockers even when getting it close to the rim.

Weaknesses

Defense: It’s a bit tougher to gauge Whitman’s performance here, as William and Mary mixed in lots of zone defense, which makes it’s tougher to determine fault. Still, Whitman’s overall defensive numbers according to Synergy put him in the 33rd percentile, which means this wasn’t his strength.

Whitman does have some shot-blocking ability. He ranked 130th nationally in block rate, with a quick view of his video showing that he’s able to challenge shots often as a help defender.

He’s most comfortable defending inside, as he ranks in the 49th percentile in post-up situations. Playing zone, though, often left him in spots where he had to close out on guards or work to challenge three-point shooters, which was where he was most vulnerable.

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Whitman also fouls often (5.1 whistles per 40 minutes) and has a low defensive rebounding percentage for a big man at 16 percent. The hope for KU’s staff has to be that he improves into an adequate defender who can learn to prevent easy baskets with improved technique.

Free-throw shooting: Whitman gets to the line a bunch, but that hasn’t been the strength it could be because of poor shooting there. He’s made 57 percent of his career free throws, though that number ticked up to 60 percent last season.

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KU’s staff has helped other players improve their shooting in an offseason, and getting Whitman even to 65 percent would greatly help his efficiency.

This also is a good time to mention that Whitman won’t be a guy that will help KU’s perimeter shooting. He’s attempted no outside shots in his three-year career, and he also put up just 27 mid-range jumpers a season ago. As mentioned before, he knows his strengths and rarely takes bad shots, but along with this, he’s not likely to be a floor-spacer either.

Bottom line

When looking at Whitman’s numbers, I can’t help but see a similar player to former KU forward Kevin Young.

Here’s a breakdown of the two:

KU big-man comparison

Kevin Young, 2012-13 Jack Whitman, 2016-17
Height 6-8 6-9
Weight 190 235
Offensive rating 112 116
Usage% 19 22
Shot% 18 17
Off. Reb.% 13 11
Def. Reb.% 20 16
2-Pt.% 58 66
FT% 60 60
FT rate 44 95
TO rate 17 18
Asst. rate 10 11
3PT/3PTAs 0/6 0/0

Both guys are role players offensively who are efficient with two-point attempts and have the ability to finish passes created by others. Both produce extra possessions with strong offensive rebounding skills and some quick-twitch to their games.

Neither is comfortable shooting or creating on the perimeter, though in coach Bill Self’s system, Young still carved out a niche while not being asked to do too much offensively alongside Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson.

Whitman’s strength over Young is his back-to-the-basket game and also getting fouled inside, though the latter will only play up if he’s able to improve his shot at the line. He also appears to be behind Young defensively, which is something that could change if he’s able to improve his fundamentals during his graduate transfer year (much like Tarik Black did).

Though Whitman clearly appears to be less talented than teammates Udoka Azubuike and Billy Preston, he should be the next in line for frontcourt minutes off the bench. If he can continue to bring energy offensively, he should have a great chance to fit in with the rest of a KU lineup that won’t need him to be more than a role player.

And as Kevin Young has previously showed, there’s a path to KU transfer success by following that exact formula.

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell


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