Willingham Wildecats' best stat

March 09, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

One statistic sums up Seth Willingham's value to his Wilde Lake basketball team better than any other.

The Wildecats (13-10, 9-5), which are scheduled to play Snow Hill at 3 p.m. Friday in the state Class 1A semifinal, have won just two games this season in which Willingham has not scored at least 18 points. And he hit double figures in those two wins.

"He's been critical to our success," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said. "When he plays a full game, offense, defense and gets assists, we win."

It's not surprising that Willing- ham leads his team in scoring with an 18.3 average.

"He's a scorer, inside and outside," Ellis said. "And when he scores, our big men play better."

But at 6-feet-3 and 190 pounds, he's also the team's third-leading rebounder with a 7.7 average. He is averaging 4.8 assists per game as well.

Willingham's versatility has been a major plus. He has played four different positions from small center to point guard.

"If he's presented with a challenge, he steps up to it," Ellis said. "And he displays good leadership through his play on the court."

If a game comes down to the wire, Ellis would like to see the ball in Willingham's hands. Willingham is a 76-percent free-throw shooter on a team that shoots only 58 percent, and in Wilde Lake's last three close victories, he hit big free throws at the end.

"Whenever we're in a tight game, I like him to have the ball," Ellis said. "One of the things he developed this year was a consistent 16-foot jump shot. Last year, he shot running and off balance and didn't have the pure jumper."

Willingham said the jumper came more by accident than by design. "I did a lot of weight lifting in the summer and it helped my jumping ability," he said. "And I have to shoot over Carl [Jackson, 6-7 center] and Sule [Carpenter, 6-5 center] in practice so I had to develop a jump shot."

He can be a streaky shooter, which accounts for a few single-digit scoring days.

"I had a couple of rough shooting games and a couple of times a box-and-one defense stopped me," Willingham said. "If my jumper is off, I move closer and try to make assists."

He says he usually knows during warm-ups how well he's going to shoot.

"If I'm hitting then, I'll hit during the game. Usually, if I'm rested, I'll hit. It's in the legs," he said.

If an opposing team plays zone, he likes to shoot from outside. If it plays man-to-man, he likes to drive. He's a good one-on-one player.

He can score from three-point range, as he proved by making seven of 11 three-point shots in an overtime victory against county co-champion Atholton.

His best all-around effort came against Forestville in the Class 1A South regional semifinal. He produced 31 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in just three quarters.

Another strong game was a 27-point effort in a victory over county co-champ Mount Hebron.

But Willingham almost didn't play basketball this season.

After passing for over 2,000 yards during the last two football seasons, he was hoping to win a football scholarship.

"If a school had signed me, it wouldn't have wanted me to play basketball because of the injury factor. I would have spent the winter lifting weights," he said.

Although he received a Division II football offer to Shippensburg, Willingham held out, hoping to get a Division I offer.

He took a week off between seasons and said it took two or three weeks to get his shot working.

That may help account for why Wilde Lake lost its first five games this season. The Wildecats are 13-5 since that start.

He might opt to play college basketball instead of football.

"I've sent out basketball tapes to UMBC, Loyola and Liberty and I'm waiting to hear from them," he said. "A UMBC coach said he liked my court leadership."

"He's a player you have to stop," Atholton's Jim Albert said. "He's an excellent shooter and wants the ball when they need to score. He lit us up."

"I think he's the best athlete in the county," Mount Hebron coach Scott Robinson said.

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