By Beau Wicker Pharos-Tribune
---- — On Whitney Jennings’ first recruiting visit to the University of Iowa two years ago, she and her family members who made the trip had a special feeling that it was the place where she would eventually continue her basketball career.
“People talk about that gut feeling that they sometimes get when they get on campus and meet the team. And I had that,” Jennings said. “I visited the summer after my freshman year. Then I took the next year to visit other schools and I always just ended up comparing them to Iowa. And for me, nothing compared.”
After verbally committing a year ago to play for the Hawkeyes, Jennings made it official Wednesday on national signing day, signing her national letter of intent to play basketball at Iowa on a full-ride scholarship.
Jennings talked about what made Iowa special to her. It starts with coach Lisa Bluder, a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year who is 251-157 (.615) in her 14th year at the school.
“Coach Bluder, she’s amazing. And the coaching staff, they’ve been there, I think this is their 14th year together if I’m not mistaken. So that sense of stability is really important to me and I know they’re going to be there,” Jennings said. “And the girls from the very first time I met them they just made me feel so welcome and like I was already part of the team. I just could see where I could fit in so easily there.”
Jennings added the Iowa program has a family-type of atmosphere and that her coaching style will help her get the most out of her talent.
“She’s a mom first of all. When I first met her she told me that’s what comes first, and I respect that so much. That was a really important quality to me and she treats her players like they’re her daughters,” she said.
Iowa already has a strong program in place so Jennings is going to a school where no major rebuild is in need and where there is already a large fanbase that supports the women’s basketball program.
“They have a good team every single year. They’re the only Big Ten team that made the last six NCAA Tournaments,” Jennings said. “I just think she’s constantly recruiting good players and every year they work hard and have a great team.”
Logansport held a signing party for Jennings on Wednesday at the high school. Principal Matt Jones spoke at the event. He pointed out the good-sized crowd in attendance which included a number of young girls basketball players that look up to Jennings.
Jones recalled being the assistant principal/athletic director at Lincoln Middle School when he saw a little third grade girl dribbling the ball around and making shots at halftime of a girls game Whitney’s older sister Shannon was playing in.
“Right then and there you could tell she had an amazing talent for basketball,” Jones said.
The Logansport principal said the LHS seal has written on it Loyalty, Honor and Service.
“Whitney Jennings epitomizes those three words,” Jones said. “Loyalty to LHS. Honor, obviously she’s very honorable. And service. Service to school and service above self.”
Jones added Jennings will be an All-North Conference selection in three sports all four years of high school which might be a first in Logansport history. He said she is also ranked seventh in her class academically, showing her dedication in the classroom and ability to balance school and sports.
“I’m very proud of Whitney and everything that she has contributed to the LHS community and to the community of Logansport in general,” Jones said. “She’s a great leader and a great teammate and is always the first to go up and pat a teammate on the back for doing something they have done very well on the court. We are just really proud of Whitney and all of her accomplishments and looking forward to this upcoming season starting Friday night against McCutcheon.”
Logansport girls basketball coach Jerry Hoover also spoke at the event.
“I’ve coached a lot of great athletes,” said Hoover, who has coached at the high school and college levels for 45 years. “I’ve coached one Randy Wittman who’s the coach of the Washington Wizards right now. He’s made a $100 million in basketball since he graduated from Indiana University. He was an Indiana All-Star. Of course Jasmine Penny was here. Whit will be the third All-Star that I’ve coached.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a lot of very, very good players. People ask me all the time, ‘who’s the best player you’ve ever coached?’ And I’ve got to say, she’s the best. Based on all the stuff that Matt just talked about, based upon her accomplishments. She’s got a very good chance of being the overall all-time leading scorer at Logansport High School, she’s got a very good chance of being Miss Basketball and she’s got a very good chance of ending up as the all-time leading scorer in the North Central Conference. When you add the things that Matt said, that she’s all-conference in three sports for four years, it’s unbelievable. So just based upon my little song and dance, she has to go down as the best player I’ve coached.”