Whitens signs with Western Michigan

Whitens to play basketball for the Broncos

Mike Mattson | Daily Press North Central senior Jason Whitens signed his national-letter-of-intent Friday to attend Western Michigan University and play basketball. Joining Whitens for the signing in the front row were his parents Gerald and Faye Whitens. In back row from left are: Varsity basketball coach Adam Mercier and Athletic Director Joey Pontbriand.

POWERS — Jason Whitens may be headed to Kalamazoo, but his heart will always be in Powers.

Whitens, the North Central senior and standout athlete, signed a national-letter-of-intent Friday to attend Western Michigan University and play basketball.

He’s heading downstate for a promising future built on a foundation of Yooper pride.

“I’m always going to be a U.P. kid at heart and do whatever I can to show what the U.P. is still made of,” Whitens said after his signing in the high school gym. “There are a lot of great athletes up here. If I can go down and make a name for the U.P. again, I’d love that, just to show that there are great U.P. athletes up here.”

Whitens will be out to prove himself as a Division I basketball player for the Broncos, who compete in the Mid-American Conference. He has nothing more to prove in his high school career.

He joins Todd Lindeman (Indiana) of North Dickinson as the two players from the U.P. to secure full-ride Division I scholarships.

Whitens visited WMU last Monday and was offered a scholarship on Wednesday morning. He also considered Michigan State (preferred walk-on), North Dakota State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Grand Valley State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan for basketball.

And he considered Wisconsin (walk-on), Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech for football.

Whitens was sold after his workout Monday before Broncos’ coach Steve Hawkins.

“When I went to Western, visited and met the coaches, it just fit everything I believe in,” Whitens said. “It just felt like I belonged. I’m excited to start the next phase of my life there.

“Ever since I was little, being able to play at the highest level possible, that’s always been my dream,” he added. “I’ve achieved that while earning a scholarship to make it a little easier on my family. I’m joining another family. My family in Powers North Central is going to be here forever. I’m just going to add another family and I’m excited.”

Whitens, the versatile 6-foot-5 leader, made his mark at North Central.

His 2,062 career points places him fifth on the U.P.’s all-time scoring list and his 108-1 career record ranks him first all-time in the state for games played and victories.

Whitens helped lead the Jets to three straight Class D state titles and a nation-leading 83 straight victories. He capped his prep career by averaging 23 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals as a senior.

In addition, Whitens was co-Player of the Year on the All-U.P. Dream Team with teammate Dawson Bilski and he was co-Player of the Year on the Associated Press Class D All-State Team.

Whitens also played quarterback and helped the Jets win two straight football championships, too.

North Central coach Adam Mercier said Whitens will be a success at WMU after leaving his mark at North Central.

“What a journey, if there’s any kid who deserves a Division I scholarship, it’s Jason Whitens,” Mercier said. “Patience was a virtue for Jason this offseason. A lot of different workouts, a lot of visits, a lot of tough choices that had to be made.

“Western Michigan is going to have a fine student-athlete when he gets down to campus in June. I’m so excited for him. He’s excited to start a new chapter in his life. The North Central family and his teammates are extremely proud of him.

“For North Central to produce a Division I athlete, that just shows you how much respect coaches from these Division I schools have for Jason Whitens. We knew he could play at that level, it was just a matter of him meeting these coaches, meeting these programs and showing them who Jason Whitens is and who he is going to be.”

The humble Whitens was joined Friday by his teammates and special friends (Dawson Bilski, Bobby Kleiman, Marcus Krachinski, Seth Polfus, Ryan Plunger) in the senior class.

He acknowledged their contributions in a legacy that may not be reached by another school in the state.

“I wouldn’t be here without them.” Whitens said. “If I didn’t have the teammates that surrounded me, and I had to try and do everything, it wouldn’t make me the player I am. It wouldn’t make me as unselfish I like to think I am. I like to see the smiles on the other guy’s faces. I like to see them do well. That’s what a team is.

“Everyone has their back and just getting after it and winning at the highest level, which is what we did, accomplishing three state championships in basketball.

My teammates are the greatest and I’ll never forget the memories we had together.”