Senior Connor Whitman is the first Tiger basketball player in the history of the program to be named the D3Hoops.com West Region Player of the Year.
The honor is the latest recognition for the economics major from Los Angeles, who also was recognized as SCIAC Player of the Year and named to Second Team All-District as voted on by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Whitman’s 3.7 three-pointers per game and his 46.3 three-point field goal percentage placed him fifth and ninth among all Division III players nationwide. The 6’1" guard also was ranked 46th in free-throw percentage (84.9) and 97th in scoring with 18.2 points per game.
A three-time winner of the team’s Most Improved Award, Whitman scored 1,325 career points, including 284 three-pointers, for the Tigers.
"Connor winning our Most Improved Player Award three straight years speaks volumes about his work ethic," said Head Coach Brian Newhall ’83. "He was a marked man throughout the year and still produced big numbers. Not only was he an offensive threat but his defense and rebounding were just as strong."
Whitman credits his transformation into a "complete basketball player" to the Oxy coaching staff.
"During my entire career the coaches have consistently pushed me to develop my entire game," he said. "They were never satisfied and were great at pushing me to improve by pointing out areas I needed to work on."
Some players find it difficult to adjust to that coaching style, but Whitman thrived on it. "As my basketball game progressed the more things they pointed out to me. They wanted to continue to see me grow," he said. "Although I have worked very hard on my own to raise my level of competition, being named West Region Player of the Year is a true testament to my teammates and coaches who pushed me every day and helped me to get to the level I am at now."
Whitman led the Tigers to a 22-6 overall record and a conference championship in 2008, shooting 41.3% from the field with 106 three-pointers. He added 68 assists, 48 steals, eight blocks and 4.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers. Whitman was named the SCIAC Athlete of the Week three times during the season, and led the conference in points per game, free throw percentage, three-point field goal percentage and three-pointers made.
Whitman’s basketball days are not over yet, though. Newhall is in the process of helping him find a place to play in Europe, either in Germany or Denmark, where several other Occidental alumni have played. Ideally, Whitman would like to play for a few years overseas before returning to the states to begin his own business.
Just as he has been successful on the court, Whitman has thrived in the classrooms passing his economics senior comprehensive with distinction.
"The Occidental faculty teaches you the background knowledge that you need to think on your own, allowing you to create your own ideas. This will help me achieve my goal of starting my own business," he said.
Not only have the faculty provided guidance in the classroom, but Whitman has gotten to know his professors outside the classroom as well. "The small class sizes make the setting more personal and allow for a more interactive atmosphere where we are always learning as much from each other as we are from the professors."
Another lesson Whitman has learned is balance. He has been able to focus on his education while playing the sport he loves.
"Oxy provides the perfect blend of basketball and academics. I can truly say that I was challenged both on and off of the court. The economics faculty are outstanding and the basketball program continues to raise the bar."
Oxy basketball has become a Top-20 program, thanks in large part to its success over the past four year. Whitman and six of his senior teammates were instrumental in creating a winning atmosphere that took the Tigers to three playoff appearances in four years and clinched back-to-back SCIAC Championships for the first time since 1974.