The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

March 16, 2014

Whaley puts together solid junior season

FAIRMONT — Fairmont Senior’s junior forward Kaden Whaley quietly put together the best season in Marion County this season.

After playing such a big role on the Lady Polar Bears’ squad, Whaley is this year’s Times West Virginian 2013-14 girls’ basketball player of the year.

It’s hard to say that one player plays such a big role, but Fairmont Senior coach Corey Hines likened Whaley to a familiar super hero after the standout junior missed the state tournament upon tearing her ACL in the regional championship.

“It’s like you’re Robin and you look up and don’t see Batman,” he said. “It’s rough.”

Fairmont Senior made a post-season run that ended in the semifinals of the state tournament without one of its key players. Had she been on the court, things could’ve been different.

“It’s hard to replace the experience and the 21 points per game and nine rebounds and running the floor,” Hines said of the importance of having Whaley on the floor. “You try to put your team together like a puzzle, and it’s hard to replace a piece like that.”

But despite falling to injury late in the year, Whaley led the Polar Bears in scoring and rebounding all season, netting 21.0 points and pulling down 9.0 rebounds per contest.

“She was the spark our team had all year. With her scoring anywhere from 15 to 20 points a game, she won a lot of games for us single-handedly,” senior forward Kelsey Morrone said of her teammate. “From a senior perspective, I’m glad I got to play with her for three years.”

The 6-foot-1 junior is what Hines called an athletic four — a forward who runs the floor like a guard.

It’s true, Whaley resembles a point guard or shooting guard at times, but she made her living in 2013-14 by setting up shop in the paint.

“She runs the baseline better than anyone I’ve ever seen. She knows how to pick the holes and pick the spots,” Hines noted. “She’s a great rebounder, too. Especially offensively. She gets a lot of points from tip-ins.”

But even more than the raw stats themselves, it’s how she does it on the court that stands out.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that she was sometimes invisible to the eye and ear of the opponent. Whether it be slapping hands with her teammates going into an and-one situation or swatting a shot away on the block or firing a perfect pass to her teammate for a transition bucket, Whaley does it almost without a sound.

Of course, she does have a voice. If you watch closely enough, you can see her building her teammates up in the huddle or easing the tension with a quick punch line, Hines said.

“I think what Kaden does is keep things light,” he said. “She'll crack a joke here and there to take some pressure off us.”

Rather than letting her voice echo throughout gyms across the state, Whaley let her play do the talking, leading by example on the court.

With teams focusing so much on Whaley early on in the season, it gave others the ability to step up and become more influential in the offense, adding a powerful dynamic to their team.

“The way she plays, she would sometimes get 10 steals in a game and draw a lot of double- and triple-teams,” Morrone said of Whaley’s style of play. “Even through that, she was able to capitalize and gave others an opportunity to score.”

Also, the relationship Whaley holds with junior guard Emily Stoller allowed the tandem to blossom throughout the season. It would be nothing to walk into a gym where the Lady Polar Bears were playing and see Stoller feeding Whaley with a no-look, behind-the-back pass for a score, much like Allen Iverson to Dikembe Mutombo in the 1990s.

“She and Emily share a dynamic,” Hines said of the duo. “They know what the other is going to do, and that makes it hard for teams to defend.”

But now, the question Hines and the Lady Polar Bears wonder is will she be ready for next season?

That’s a question that Hines got answered over the weekend in Charleston as he watched Whaley and the rest of his team after a tough 48-40 loss to Sissonville.

“She cried with the rest of the team,” the coach said. “To me, that tells me that she's going to do what it takes to get it done.”

For now, though, Whaley can enjoy the off-season as the Times West Virginian 2013-14 girls’ basketball player of the year.

Also being named to the Times West Virginian girls’ basketball team are Emily Stoller (FSHS), Ty Horton (FSHS), Megan Haller (NMHS), Anna Marie Moscufo (NMHS), Noca Singleton (NMHS), Brooklynn Weaver (EFHS), Felicity VanGilder (EFHS) and Mikayla Moore (EFHS).

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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