Whitley enjoys a successful year as multi-sport Trinity athlete
NATCHEZ — Trinity Episcopal Day School senior Michael Whitley has enjoyed the ride of his senior season just as much as he felt the bumps and bruises that came from juggling multiple sports.
Whitley played football and basketball this year as the starting quarterback of the MAIS Class A state championship team, and the point guard of the 20-3 Saints basketball team that made an appearance in the MAIS Overall Tournament.
From the outside looking in, being the quarterback of a state championship football team seems like the perfect scenario, but Whitley remembers the type of work he and his teammates put in to get to the big stage.
“It was a lot of work with two-a-days and long hours on the field,” Whitley said. “We were in the weight room every day in the summer, then we went straight into the season.”
But Whitley saw the benefits of the hard work in an undefeated 13-0 season that ended in Clinton.
“It was an amazing season, and we got what we wanted,” Whitley said.
With a prolonged season, Whitley didn’t get much time to celebrate a stellar football season before he had to report to basketball practice.
The entire basketball team was comprised of football players. Head basketball coach Edwin White said he was happy to see Trinity athletics excel, but it was still difficult to wait for his players to hang up their cleats and hit the court.
“I got them pretty early last year, but coming straight from the championship, we had to get into shape from the go,” White said. “It took them three weeks to get acclimated. Football shape and basketball shape are two different things, but they made the adjustments.”
Whitley agreed that basketball called for a different type of conditioning, and he wasn’t where he wanted to be when the season began.
“My body was still hurting from football,” Whitley said. “I finally got in the groove after my sixth or seventh game, that’s when my legs started getting back and my shot was getting better.”
Despite the physical transition, Whitley was already mentally equipped to run the floor as the Saints starting point guard.
“There really is no difference (between a quarterback and a point guard),” White said. “You’re still orchestrating the offense, you control the tempo and run the fast breaks or slow things down. It’s the same thing.
“It made it easier for the players because they were (comfortable with Whitley) in football, and it just carried over.”
Whitley said he realized how good the Saints were when they went head-to-head with a MHSAA Class 3A team in Wilkinson County High School Dec. 16., where the team won in their closest bout of the regular season 65-62.
The Saints were projected to win the MAIS Class A South State Championship, but fell short. The team had another chance to prove they were the best team in the state at the state tournament and the overall tournament, but still couldn’t get over the hump.
“We knew after the regular season it wasn’t going to get any easier,” Whitely said, “They were both very winnable games if we would have played harder, but they were the better team that night.”
Though Trinity couldn’t return to Natchez with a title, they had a run that lasted three weeks after the regular season ended.
Going from a prolonged football season straight into an extended basketball season was tiring enough for Whitley, but he still wasn’t quite done with his senior year in athletics.
Whitely still had baseball season left, and thankfully, it didn’t involve as much conditioning. But Whitley, a rookie on the baseball field, did find out baseball wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“In baseball you don’t have to run so much, but there is so much technique involved,” Whitely said. “You have to put so many hours into it.
“The batting is hard as well. Its tougher than I thought it would be. Your technique has to be good just to hit the ball, then you still might hit a pop up.”
Whitley said a few friends talked him into giving baseball a try, though he hadn’t picked up a bat since little league. But he said he’s glad he did.
The Saints have had a rough start to its baseball season, but Whitley said they have plenty of time to turn things around with promising performances.
“Our big thing is hitting. Everything else is pretty good but we need work on batting,” Whitley said.
Now in his last leg of his senior year, Whitley reflects back on a great year, and hopes the Saints will maintain a winning reputation once he’s gone.
“(For football), it’s going to be tough replacing coach (Josh) Loy and what we did last year, but they have a good couple of guys, and we just need to get some leadership and they can do it again,” he said.
Whitley said he wants to play football on the college level, and will continue to work out at Trinity until he goes off to school in the fall.
Whitley is the son of Delores and Louis Whitley.