Article, 2007-2008 Season - Ohlone Renegades Men's Basketball
From Ohlone to Ohio
Bobcat guards adjust to life after junior college
By Zach Swarz, Staff writer.
When juniors Allen Hester and Bert Whittington IV walked onto the basketball court of the Convocation Center for the first time, they knew right away this was where they wanted to continue their collegiate basketball careers.
Whittington made the decision to play for the Bobcats after two years of junior college ball at Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif., when best friend, roommate and fellow Bobcat guard Hester convinced him it would be a good idea. Whittington, a native of Hankamer, Texas, and Hester, out of Oakland, Calif., won 49 games in just two seasons for the Ohlone Renegade. In 2007 the duo helped them advance to the quarterfinals of the California Community College State Tournament. Soon afterward the Ohio coaching staff took notice and recruited the pair, and in the end, the two lightning-fast guards landed a spot on the Bobcats' roster.
It was not the first time that Ohio had gone to Fremont to find a player. In 2004, the Renegade basketball team produced Mychal Green, who would later go on to win two All-Mid-American Conference honorable mention awards for the Bobcats and who finished third on Ohio’s all-time three-point shooting list.
After the two put up an average of 10.5 points per game a piece at Ohlone, Whittington is averaging 9.4 points a game for the Bobcats, and Hester just 2.5 points. Despite the numbers, however, they have made an immediate impact. While Whittington has established a strong ability to drive the lane, Hester brings a quick foot on the defensive end, and they both play aggressively on both sides of the floor.
“They both have contributed to where we’re at right now, and I think they will continue to do so,” Coach Tim O’Shea said. “They fit in well with the team. I’m happy with both of them right now.”
The 5-foot-11-inch Whittington has started eight games and played in all 20 of the Bobcats’ games so far this season. Hester has made an appearance in 16 games, including his first start of the season on Jan. 12 against Miami. Nevertheless, the significant playing time is no surprise for the two athletes.
“I feel like I have the ability to be in the starting lineup,” Hester said. “It was a surprise [to start], but at the same time it wasn’t because of my work ethic and how hard I’ve been practicing.”
After graduating high school, neither player was able to attend a Division I college without taking a detour through Ohlone first. While Whittington was not able to score high enough on the SAT, Hester never even took the test. Both knew, however, that they wanted to end their careers somewhere other than junior college.
“I kind of knew my route, and I thought that that was the best route for me to get to the next level I wanted to play at,” Hester said. “I could have went D-II or D-III, but I wasn’t satisfied with anything at that level. I was like, ‘I don’t want to settle for this,’ and I felt like I could play on the D-I level.”
Hester and Whittington share more than just the basketball court, however. They share a friendship that started in college and that they expect will be there for a long time in the future.
The two met for the first time after playing each other in the last game of a summer basketball league during Hester’s first year in junior college. While playing together at Ohlone, the duo established a friendship that would last the transition not only to a new level of play, but also to the new, unfamiliar and much colder state of Ohio. Whittington and Hester are roommates here in Athens, and so far, everything is going as planned.
“I didn’t want to come in here and have to meet a new roommate or have to experience not knowing the other person,” Whittington said. “I just wanted to come in here and room with him, and I’d be fine."
“It’s been cool,” the 6-foot-1-inch junior said. “It makes it a lot easier already knowing the person having already been together two years before this.”
From the court to their house to their social lives, the two are almost inseparable.
“If you see him, then you’ll probably see me,” Hester said. “If one of us is without the other, then we’re probably meeting up with one another. It’s day in, day out.”
The two athletes were not the only ones who could see the possibility for success between them.
“They’re both just great kids,” Ohlone coach John Peterson said. “They are enjoyable to be around outside of the gym, and they have great senses of humor. I liked coaching them because I liked being around them, and I still like being around them and talking to them.”
Peterson has successfully sent all 48 players who have played for him in the past seven years in Fremont onto the four-year college level. Peterson tries to keep in touch with all his players who have moved on, and he talks with Whittington and Hester about once every couple of weeks as part of an ongoing process that helps athletes transfer from junior college to the NCAA level.
“There’s always going to be a transition when you go up a level,” Peterson said, “but I felt that we had done a very good job of preparing them for that.”
To Hester and Whittington, moving up a level does not just mean getting playing time for a D-I program. They have much higher goals than that.
“[Making the NCAA Tournament] would be a dream come true,” Hester said. “Already playing D-I is a dream come true, but just for me, for Bubba [Walther] to get there and for Leon [Williams] to get back for a second time, I feel like this is the year to do it.”
With the Bobcats in a three-way tie for second place in the MAC East Division, an NCAA berth may not be far off. But win or lose, championship or no championship, these two players have found something greater.
“[Our relationship] ain’t doing nothing but growing,” Hester said of his roommate and teammate. “That’s a lifelong friend right there.”
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