NOVEMBER 25, 2018 - COVINGTON
Whether it's teasing her about her "weak" game or arguing about who won a one-on-one contest between the two, Covington coach Jim Meyer likes giving his senior basketball standout, Samantha Whiteman, a hard time now and then. When talking to Meyer about Whiteman, rarely does he not get in a little dig on the Lady Bucc star.
But Meyer was rather subdued on Wednesday at Covington High School as he witnessed Whiteman sign her letter of intent to play collegiate basketball at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee.
"You know," Meyer said quietly. "In a small community like Covington you will have a lot of what you would call 'good players', but rarely do you have a great, great basketball player - someone who becomes the face of the program. We've had Lynnette Roeth in the early nineties and then Michelle Meyer a decade ago. Sammi is that type of player, a player who has become the face of the program. Everywhere you go, when people talk about Covington basketball they mention Sammi."
Which made Wednesday night a bittersweet moment for Meyer and many of those who were on hand to witness Whiteman make her collegiate choice. That's because there was a realization that Sammi Whiteman is in the twilight of an amazing basketball career at Covington High School.
"It's not just her as a basketball player, but it's Sammi the person that makes her special," Meyer continued. "She's just a great kid, a great leader, a very spiritual kid who everyone admires. She spends time with the elementary kids and they all want to be like Sammi - not because she is a great basketball player, but because of the type of person she is."
Whiteman is deeply rooted in her faith, which made the decision to pursue her education in Exercise Science at Trevecca Nazarene University an easy one for the Lady Bucc senior.
"My faith is taking me there," she said. "It feels like where I'm suppose to be and like home for me. The atmosphere of the college, the coaches, the program - everything seems right."
For Samantha's parents, it's rewarding to see their daughter commit to the next level, but the fact that they will be able to continue watching her play makes it that much better.
"We are proud of her and we are also glad we will still be able to watch her play," said Sammi's father, Andy. "They play a lot of schools in Ohio - Cedarville, Ohio Dominican, Findlay - so we will be able to get to a lot of her games. Actually, her home games will be our longest drives."
Watching her play is something her parents have enjoyed since she could barely walk as Sammi fell in love with the sport ever since she was old enough to pick up a basketball.
"As soon as her feet hit the floor, she was playing basketball," said Andy. "There wasn't a day that went by where she didn't have a basketball in her hands."
And the unpredictable Ohio winters were never a deterrent.
"I remember she'd go out and shovel snow so she could play basketball," said Nikki, Samantha's mother. "Her little hands would be so cold, but she stayed out there for hours."
And as she got older and into competitive basketball, Whiteman took every opportunity she could to get into the gym - even it it meant pestering coaches to open up the doors before school or on weekends.
"They never turned me down when I'd ask to get in the gym," said Sammi of her coaches. "I know I probably drove them crazy, but they always let me in."
"Her work ethic is unbelievable," Meyer said. "I've coached a lot of kids over the years and nobody spends as much time in the gym as Sammi."
It has all led to an amazing high school career for Whiteman as she enters her senior season ranked fifth in points scored in a career with 1305 points and third in average points-per-game for a career with 17.2. She also has scored the second most points in a season with 526 last year as a junior and fourth most in a season as a sophomore with 469.
Yes, she is a once in a generation student/athlete.
And for those who haven't watched her play, make sure you take in a game this season.