Stefan Whittingham, the Webster University men's basketball team's top scorer from a year ago, said…
Whittingham to transfer to Division II Lincoln University
A year after leading the Webster University men’s basketball team in scoring and rebounding, Stefan Whittingham said he will transfer to Division-II Lincoln University (Pa.) for the 2012-2013 academic year “to pursue a higher performance of play.”
Whittingham, who was named the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year last season, will enter Lincoln with two years of athletic eligibility remaining. Whittingham said he received an athletic scholarship to play for the Lincoln Lions, but declined to say if it was a full-ride scholarship.
Whittingham met with Webster coach Chris Bunch in March to inform Bunch that he was considering a transfer. Whittingham visited Lincoln’s campus and met with third-year coach John Hill earlier this summer. He will head to Lincoln from his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 16.
“I made a lot of good friends at Webster this year, plus I had a really good basketball season. So it was a really tough decision, especially leaving coach Bunch, who did so much for me throughout my past two years,” Whittingham said. “Coach Bunch was one of the best coaches I ever had. It was pretty hard to just make that decision and leave there — it took a lot of thinking and a lot of talking through.”
Bunch said he talked to Whittingham about the pros and cons of transferring when the two met in March. Bunch said in his 12 years of collegiate coaching, he’s never had one of his players transfer up a division.
“Obviously, there’s mixed emotions,” Bunch said. “I’m disappointed because it’s a big loss for our program. And at the same time, if someone has found a way to go to college and get a scholarship to play basketball, it’s hard for me to say, ‘Oh, well, he made a poor choice.’ He’s getting at least some of his school paid for. He’s still going to get to continue to play. He had to do what he felt was best for him and his family. I totally understand that; I respect that. It’s not like I harbor him any ill will.”
Though Whittingham did not address the entire Webster team about his thoughts of transferring, he did have a personal talk with then-junior Roman Robinson. Robinson, who averaged 12.7 points per game last year, will enter his senior season as the Gorloks’ top returning scorer.
“He told me, and I said, ‘Good, if they’re going to take care of you, then go. But don’t go out there if they’re not playing you. It’s your last few years. You don’t want to sit the bench one whole year and then play your senior year,’” Robinson said. “That was pretty much my reaction. ‘Well, do it, man. Whatever makes you happy.’”
In his sophomore season at Webster, Whittingham emerged as the Gorloks’ go-to player. He averaged team highs in minutes (33.5), points (15.5) and rebounds (8.2). He started all 26 of the Gorloks’ games and shot 49 percent from the field.
In March, Whittingham became the first Webster men’s basketball player since 2001 to be selected as an All-American honorable mention by DIII News, the monthly newsletter of Division-III basketball.
Whittingham led the Gorloks to a 13-13 overall record and a 13-3 conference mark. Webster won the SLIAC regular-season championship for a second straight year, but fell to MacMurray College in the SLIAC tournament semifinals.
Whittingham said he also considered transferring to a couple other Division-II schools, including two in Florida. He was in contact with the coach at Texas Southern University, a Division-I school, but he said that “ended up not going through.”
Whittingham had his Fort Lauderdale High School coach, Reggie Nixon, call college coaches to gauge their interest in recruiting Whittingham. Whittingham said his conversations with Nixon helped persuade him he was ready for a higher division of basketball.
Lincoln track athlete Abraham Noel, who attended Fort Lauderdale High School with Whittingham, told Hill about Whittingham’s interest in transferring. Whittingham then got in touch with Hill and things progressed from there.
Whittingham will join a Lions team that finished 11-18 last year. Lincoln, a former Division-III school, became a full Division-II member in 2010. Lincoln is a historically black university located in southeastern Pennsylvania, about 50 miles from Philadelphia.
The Gorloks begin their regular season on Nov. 17. Bunch knows he and his team will have to quickly get over the loss of Whittingham.
“It’s just like I told some of our guys — people graduate every year and people leave every year,” Bunch said. “We have guys leave; we have guys come in. There was a team here long before (Whittingham) or I were ever here, and there will be a team here after we’re gone. We’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing.”