Boys Basketball: Bartlett’s Lance Whitaker working his way back after ACL injury

Updated: May 12, 2012 5:39PM

Last summer, Lance Whitaker was a rising junior preparing to be the go-to guy at Bartlett.

Expectations were high for the powerfully built 6-5 guard, who led the Hawks with 16.5 points per game as a sophomore to go along with 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals.

Those expectations quickly changed when Whitaker went down in a heap while playing for the Illinois Wolves club team at a live-period event at the Spiece Fieldhouse in Fort Wayne, Ind., last July. The news quickly went from bad to worse when Whitaker heard the three letters no basketball player ever wants to hear: A-C-L.

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries ­— in Whitaker’s case, a complete tear — vary in terms of recovery time. He missed the entire high school season and only recently returned to playing with the Wolves.

He got his first big minutes at the annual Hensley Run N’ Slam last weekend, playing in the same building where he got hurt in Fort Wayne.

‘‘I thought it would be weird to play here, but it hasn’t been that bad,’’ Whitaker said. ‘‘It was definitely a trying time, but I think I grew from it and it made me learn how to work hard and push through a lot of things. It just feels great to be back.’’

Valparaiso and SIU Edwardsville have made scholarship offers, and Whitaker continues to hear from other mid-major programs. Meanwhile, Whitaker, whom Wolves coach Mike Mullins called the ‘‘toughest player we have in our program,’’ is working to improve his game during his comeback.

‘‘I have my mid-range game, my defense and rebounding, and I’m trying to get back to where I was before,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve been working on my point guard skills. I want to be willing to play whatever the team needs me to play, so that was something that I felt like I needed to get better at.’’

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