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Freshman Whitlock takes charge for Monessen boys basketball | TribLIVE.com
High School Basketball

Freshman Whitlock takes charge for Monessen boys basketball

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Ben Bamford | Mon Valley Independent
Monessen’s Devin Whitlock has been a key contributor during the 2018-19 season.

Stepping into the Monessen football team’s starting lineup as a freshman this fall, Devin Whitlock received first-team all-conference honors as a defensive back. Offensively, he piled up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards, first as a receiver and kick returner, then as the Greyhounds’ quarterback.

And he didn’t stop there.

For the Greyhounds basketball team, his situation was different. He stepped into the role of quarterback from Day 1, said first-year Monessen coach Dan Bosnic, who spent six seasons as coach at Connelleville. Bosnic was hired in June as Monessen’s coach.

“From Day 1, I could see he played at a high level,” Bosnic sadi. “I knew from our offseason he would run the offense. I saw his ability and potential over the summer. Keys to his game are his maturity on the court and as an individual, and his competitiveness.”

Whitlock (5-foot-8) brings the entire package, offensively and defensively, to the court and has led Monessen to its sixth consecutive section crown.

Offensively, in addition to leading the ‘Hounds in scoring (17.0 points), he is an excellent ball-handler and can control the pace of the game, Bosnic said.

“He can distribute the ball to his teammates, get to the hoop and finish plays. His shooting has improved, and he can shoot the 3 with confidence, which has opened the door for him and his teammates.”

Whitlock recently had a season-high 27 points in a nonsection game against Seton LaSalle.

Defensively, he has shown he can disrupt opponents, pressuring the ball and getting in opposing lanes to cause further disruption.

“Devin is fearless on the court,” Bosnic said. “He came out of the gate strong and had a willingness to compete from Day 1. He took charge as a freshman and has taken on our leadership role and gained the trust of his teammates. They gravitate toward him.”

While Whitlock acknowledges “it was a little tough at first stepping in as point guard,” he was not intimidated.

”Coach told me at the beginning of the season that I would be starting at point, that I had to step up and be the quarterback of the basketball team, too,” he said. “As a team, we needed to learn how to come together, and we made a lot of progress as the season went on. We are ready for the playoffs.”

Monessen (14-8, 12-0 in Section 2) is the No. 4 seed in the WPIAL Class A playoffs and will play the winner of No. 5 St. Joseph (17-5) and No. 12 West Greene (7-14) in the quarterfinals Feb. 21.

But Whitlock knew there would be challenges.

“I was determined to play every game like it was middle school or AAU,” he said, “except at this next level with the varsity, I found the game to be much faster. I’m a freshman, and playing against some seniors who are like grown men taught me to be more prepared against better players.”

Whitlock demonstrated his worth early in the season in Franklin Regional’s Mike Rettger Memorial tournament, where he topped all scorers and was named to the all-tournament team.

Stepping into a lineup that included veteran starters, Whitlock, who carries a 3.0 GPA, realized, “We needed to learn how to come together as a team. We had to learn how to play as a team as the season went on, and we’ve achieved that goal.”

Even though Whitlock entered the basketball season with football accolades and leads the team in scoring, he chuckled as he recalled one of his favorite moments this season.

“I realized I was starting at the point as a freshman for a school that has an excellent basketball tradition (Monessen has seven WPIAL championships), but for our first home game I walked onto the floor and saw the crowd and just had to stop for a moment,” he said. “Not all freshmen are fortunate to experience something like that.”

Les Harvath is a freelance writer.