One week before Clearwater was set to make a return trip to the state final four, Shinikki Whiting sustained the second basketball-related injury of her young career. She severely sprained her right ankle in a one-point victory over Miami's Our Lady of Lourdes to send the Tornadoes back to the state tournament.
Earlier in that game, the sophomore was dazzling. She was her usual self, stealing passes, taking the ball court to court and scoring at will. She even grabbed a baseline pass in mid-air and turned it into an alley-oop layup.
Whiting found herself on crutches after that game and was forced to watch her teammates practice. From the side, Whiting was eager to get back on the court.
But it is not as though Whiting needs to practice her physical game. She led the Tornadoes with 17.7 points, 6.1 assists and 6 steals a game. Whiting's talents were well received her freshman year when she was named an all-state second-teamer. She followed that with a first-team selection this year
For leading Clearwater to the Class 5A runner-up spot, Whiting is the Times
Pinellas County Player of the Year. And to hear her coach tell it, the 16-year-old has room to improve.
"She's obviously a very, very talented player," Times
Coach of the Year Tom Shaneyfelt said. "I think to a large degree, and the reason she has so much potential, she mostly plays for fun. She doesn't yet really study the game too much."
Whiting doesn't understand what all the fuss over her is about. She credits God for giving her basketball talent and her coaches for bringing it out. But to call her the best in the county? The best sophomore in Florida? One of the best players in the state? Nah.
"I'm not a superstar," she said. "(I am) as average as everyone else. I'm serious."
About the only player who came close to equalling the effort Whiting had this season was her senior teammate Alicia Evans. Evans was the Tornadoes' leader with 17.3 points a game and 4.5 assists and 4.5 steals. And her vintage drive to the hole sent her to the free-throw line 267 times. Whiting was the flash and dash and by no means average. As young as she is and as much as Shaneyfelt still wants her to learn, Whiting is mature enough not to boast.
"I don't want to get the big head because God can take this ability away from me just like that if I get overconfident about it," Whiting said. "Most people say I am, like my friends, so that tells me that they are not really my friends."
If she has trouble keeping friends off the court because of her ability, she won't exactly have many allies on the court, either, if she continues at her torrid pace.
"I'm optimistic about the possibilities for her," Shaneyfelt said. "A lot of what she has is pure athletic ability. At some point she is going to get better and better. I feel good about her development."
All-county girls basketball
The All-Pinellas County teams are picked by the Times
in consultation with area coaches.
Player of the Year: Shinikki Whiting, Clearwater.
Coach of the Year: Tom Shaneyfelt, Clearwater.
Player Yr. School Avg.
Shinikki Whiting So. Clearwater 17.7
Alicia Evans Sr. Clearwater 17.3
Tina Gillems So. Dunedin 15.5
Molly Worrall Jr. Clearwater 14.1
Tia Miller Fr. Boca Ciega 14.0
Player Yr. School
Alison Mathews Jr. Northside Chr.
Karon Cora Sr. Tarpon Springs
Oni Sadiki Sr. Dunedin
Latonya Walker Sr. St. Petersburg
Aimee Sodenkamp Jr. Boca Ciega
Boca Ciega: Monique Heatly, Alison Lamb, Shantae Jackson. Canterbury: Julie Castles. Clearwater: Robyn Gregory, Jamie Higinbotham, Jill Horrocks. Clearwater Central Catholic: Valerie Cichowicz, Stephanie Ortiz, Lisa Hicks. Countryside: Tacia Gaines, Laura Humphrey. Dixie Hollins: Shelley Trump, Sandi Swain. Dunedin: Sara Chapman, Kimber Powell, Kate Roche. East Lake: Crystal Budynkiewica. Indian Rocks Christian: Jenny Heidenreich. Keswick Christian: Shannon Kewin, Sarah Felix, Kelly Crisp. Lakewood: Melinda Martinez, April Bogar. Largo: Tamica Solomon, Tori McGee. Northeast: Nerissa Roundtree, Lawanda Jackson, Latoya Banks. Northside Christian: Brianne Harrington. Seminole: Casey Chapman, Kelly McQuire, Holly Groves. St. Petersburg: Sarah Vollbracht. St. Petersburg Catholic: Lisa Cronauer, Kim Esposito, Nicole Huebner. Tarpon Springs: Angie Koulianos, Kara Sullivan, Jennifer BaiRossi.