The Mansfield boys basketball team has been playing well throughout district so far, and a constant presence for the Tigers has been the play of D.J. Whiteside.
The Mansfield point guard is averaging 11 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and coach Jason Speakes said his contributions have been felt.
“D.J. has emerged this season as our team leader,” Speakes said. “He is our primary ball handler and decision maker. He has taken on the role of being ‘our coach on the floor’ — directing guys where to go on the floor. I have a great deal of trust in D.J. to run our team, and I’ve given him the freedom and flexibility to go out and do what he does best, which is create [opportunities] for himself and his teammates.”
D.J. plays the game with great passion, he has fun out there on the floor, which is the way the game is meant to be played.
- Mansfield coach Jason Speakes on point guard D.J. Whiteside
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Whiteside’s father, Donald Whiteside, played professionally with the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks, and the Mansfield guard said his father has always been his greatest motivator.
“Having a father who played professional basketball is great,” Whiteside said. “He has so much knowledge for the game and he is always willing to pass it on to me. He is very supportive of everything I do and believes in me more than anyone. He also has always pushed me to do my best in everything I do.”
The Tigers were 4-3 in district competition and in fourth place heading into Tuesday night’s game with Fort Worth Paschal, and Whiteside said he feels the season is going pretty well to this point.
“This season has had its ups and downs, but it has been a great season for the most part,” Whiteside said. “I feel really confident in this team and what we can do and achieve together.”
Whiteside, who is a member of AVID (a college readiness program) and enjoys playing chess, said he has a couple of objectives for this season.
“My personal goal for this season was really to become a better leader than I have been in my past seasons, both vocally and by example,” Whiteside said. “As a team, we want to make a run in the playoffs. That’s something none of us have ever experienced, and I feel like we all have that common goal.”
Speakes said that now more than ever, the Mansfield basketball team needs Whiteside’s leadership as the Tigers push toward the postseason.
“More than anything, I want to see D.J. lead this team to the postseason,” Speakes said. “ He has poured a lot into this program for four years, and I want to see the work and dedication pay off for him. On many occasions, I’ve turned to my staff on the bench and stated, ‘We are sure going to miss D.J. next year.’ D.J. plays the game with great passion, he has fun out there on the floor, which is the way the game is meant to be played.
“Our team feeds off of that. He had a bit of a slow start to the season, especially offensively, but has come on strong in the last five or six weeks to become our most consistent player. With the stretch run of district play approaching, it’s time for him, Garrett Shaw, Saiid Adebo and the rest of our seniors to lead us when the stakes are the highest.”
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