#TGW: Bringing Her A-Game
Senior forward Aaliyah Whiteside efficiently earns respect, ACC Player of the Week
No one has to tell Aaliyah Whiteside the importance of upperclass leadership.
As a freshman and sophomore Whiteside got to watch and practice against Tyaunna Marshall, who left Georgia Tech as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Whiteside, a 6-0 senior guard/forward, took in Marshall’s leadership-by-example and, this past week, took a step in Marshall’s shoes, by earning ACC Player of the Week. It’s an honor last accomplished by a Yellow Jacket in February, 2014, when Marshall won the award.
In her third season as a captain, Whiteside led the team in scoring in each of its first two games, both victories, scoring 22 and 21 points (a 21.5 ppg average) on 50 percent shooting (14-for-28), while pulling in 6.0 rebounds, handing out 2.0 assists and making 2.0 steals.
The back-to-back 20-point games gave Whiteside three such games in her last four dating back to last season, and the first time in her career that she’s had consecutive 20-point games. She’ll try to make it three-for-three Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion, when the Yellow Jackets try to go three-for-three on the season, hosting Southeastern Louisiana. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
Should she reach 21 points, Whiteside would become only the 29th Georgia Tech player to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
All of those numbers are impressive but to Coach MaChelle Joseph, perhaps the most impressive number regarding Whiteside’s first two games is 28 -- the number of shots she needed to get her 43 points.
“The thing I like about Aaliyah is last year, if you look at efficiency rating, she’s one of the top five most efficient players in the ACC,” said Joseph. “If you look at how she’s scoring her points, she scored 21 points on 13 shots (against St. Francis Brooklyn). We had players last year, that would score 20 points but it would be on 27 shots. I think that she’s being very efficient for us on the offensive end. Then, defensively, I thought in the second half she got some key deflections that resulted in easy baskets.”
Whiteside has stepped up for a team looking to fill a potential scoring vacuum, as they’re currently playing without three of last year’s top four scorers.
“Everybody has to take a step up,” said Whiteside, who entered her senior year averaging 10.2 ppg, and is coming off a junior season in which she upped the ante to 13.5 ppg (19th in the ACC), while scoring the fifth-most points by a Georgia Tech junior (456), and pulling in the seventh-most rebounds by a junior (216, her 6.4 rpg ranked 16th in the conference), while shooting .832 from the line in 34.3 minutes (both fifth in the ACC). “We’re going to be fine. We’re going to move forward and we’re going to bring our A-game every night. We just have to finish it.”
Finishing was admittedly a problem in the Jackets’ opener, especially for Whiteside, who after scoring 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting (2-for-6 from three, 4-for-4 from the line) in the first two quarters, dropped off, managing only four points, all from the line, and, more alarming, going 4-for-8 from the line. It was only the second time in her career and the first since Jan. 10, 2013 that Whiteside, the fourth-best free throw shooter in school history (a career .782), missed four free throws in a game.
“I thought she played well in the first half. I thought she got tired in the second half and I don’t think she was able to sustain the level that she played at,” said Joseph. “One of the things she has to do is to play her way into better shape so that she can put two halves together. We’re going to be asking a lot of her so she’s going to have to find a way to offensively and defensively help this team out.”
Whiteside recognized that difficulty in the first game, the first she’d played four 10-minute quarters since high school.
“It’s definitely a difference. I’m still trying to get used to it,” Whiteside said after the opener. “Just always knowing that the college game was 20 minutes each half and now it’s four quarters, it’s a little different but we’ll adjust to it and it will feel the same.
“I know I’m going to go back and watch film and I’ll get better,” she added. “I’ve got to push the young ones to get better.”
Naturally, she bounced back and was consistent in the both halves against St. Francis Brooklyn (11 points on 4-for-6, 0-for-2 from three 3-for-3 from the line in 12 minutes vs. 10 points, 4-for-7, 2-for-2 from three, 0-for-2 from the line in 17).
Such determination and resilience shouldn’t be surprising. Remember, this is the person that put up some 20,000 shots last summer so as to improve her shooting.
Such determination and continuing to be a leader, is something Joseph knows she can count on out of Whiteside, one of three upperclass captains (fellow senior Roddreka Rogers, junior Katarina Vuckovic and sophomore O’Neil also are captains).
“Aaliyah Whiteside, Roddreka Rogers and Katarina Vuckovic have been the core nucleus of our team on the offensive and defensive end. They’ve anchored us,” said Joseph. “I’ve really been impressed with the leadership of our upperclassmen. I can’t say enough about their leadership, their support, their patience with these younger players.”