Signing with Cleveland State Community College Thursday, the 6-foot-6 post player feels good about the chance to join a Cougar program that was “within a point of earning a spot in the NJCAA National Tournament” this past season.
“I feel like this is the best decision for me,” declared Whitmire, who is graduating next month with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. “I considered (NCAA Division III) Maryville College, but this will give me a chance to develop my game more, and my studies for two years, and hopefully get an opportunity to play for a four-year school.”
“Matt is a great young man that has been coached extremely well by coach (Kent) Smith and he’s ready to take the next step,” remarked Cougar head coach Lee Cigliano. “I think he’s one of the best young men I’ve recruited in 17 years here (at CSCC). We are excited to be able to get such a quality local player to join our program.”
“He’s driven and goal-minded. I saw him about a half dozen times this (past) season and he was always consistent, shooting well from 16-17 feet, plus he’s adaptable and versatile,” the veteran Cleveland State mentor added. “I like what he can do and feel like he can extend the floor for us at the No. 4 position.”
“A light went on for Matt in his junior year around Christmastime,” expressed veteran Bradley head coach Kent Smith. “We inserted him in the starting lineup and he developed his shot. While we were at MTSU this past sumer at a camp, I told him he had a chance to play college ball, and he has worked very hard to get this chance.”
“He’s aggressive; and not afraid to attack the basket, but he can also stop and pop the jumper from 12 to 15 feet,” the Bear mentor added. “He came in an developed each year and payed against some really tough competition in games and in practice.”
“He’s as solid a person as I’ve ever coached,” the 17-year Bear bench veteran concluded. “If you tell him something, he’s going to do it. Cleveland State is a good fit for him and coach Cigliano will do a good job in helping him continue to develop.”
Whitmire, who’s brother Jordan is on a baseball scholarship at Bryan College, led the Bears in rebounding this past season, snatching 183 caroms (5.9 a game), plus filled up the nets at an 11.3 per game rate. Shooting 54 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free-throw line, Whitmire helped Bradley claim its first Region 3-AAA championship since 2007, and advance to its second straight TSSAA Sectional game. Bradley posted a 67-19 record in his three years on the varsity squad.
“Playing here at Bradley has meant the world to me,” Whitmire related. “There’s a tradition here like nowhere else. Coaches Smith, (Chuck) Clark and (Patrick) Spangler have pushed me to play at the highest level and helped me to improve my game. I’m going to miss playing here, but I’m glad I’m getting to stay close to home to continue playing.”
Cleveland State went 19-10 this past season, finishing third in the NJCAA Region VII conference.