Going strictly by appearances Clay City point guard Whitney McWilliams wouldn't strike most people as a dangerous basketball player. But upon watching her guide an Eels' team that has had more than their fair share of difficulties this season, you'd realize you were wrong.
Though diminutive in size at just 5'2, McWilliams has displayed a wealth of heart and competitive fire that is lacking at most levels of basketball these days.
This has turned, in many ways, into a season of learning and teaching for the Eels who have gotten court time for a lot of their younger players this year. While missing starting senior Jenna Koehler for a handful of games to illness and losing other regulars to injury, the Eels have steadied themselves and still gotten varsity experience for several freshmen and sophomores.
All the while McWilliams has guided the way for the Eels who are currently 3-17 overall headed into tonight's sectional battle with Class A No. 3 ranked North Central.
Despite that disappointing record, the Eels have seen some bright spots with their younger players, especially McWilliams.
The freshman leads the team in scoring at 10.8 points a game and sports a 51 percent shooting percentage from the field, rare for a point guard. "She's played so much basketball outside school," said Ross. "She's played in AAU camps, 3-on-3 games, pickup games and just whenever she can."
That love of the game has led McWilliams to possess a steadiness about her game that few freshmen can boast. "She has a presence about her. She has knowledge of the game that you just can't teach," commented Ross.
McWilliams also has added a long-distance threat that the Eels needed this season with the graduation of Adrie Koehler who knocked down 50 from long range last year. McWilliams has 23 this season while shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.
Though she is often one of the smallest players on the court she still pulls down over three rebounds a game and her defensive quickness has enabled her to average over two steals a game.
Obviously she has had her off nights on the scoreboard but much of that can be attributed to the extensive attention she gets from opposing defenses according to Ross. "I'm real pleased with her progress. She's really stepped up when we've needed someone to take charge. She had some big stat nights early in the season, but now she gets everyone's best defensive efforts, but she's learned and listened well."
With four sophomores and McWilliams on the varsity roster the Eels could be expected to have some growing pains this year. However, as experience catches up to talent for the Eels, Clay City opponents will certainly have their hands full the next few years.