News-Register | Joanna Mikolajczak
Center Ty Whitaker of the Men's Blazer basketball team has drive and determination. "I want to be the best that I can be."
By Demetria Lester North Lake News-Register Editor-in-Chief
Through countless setbacks in his personal life, North Lake's Center, Ty Whitaker, continues to sort through his struggles as a young man while excelling as a student athlete.
Whitaker's inspirational story is one full of unfortunate events, which resulted in his own success. Standing proud at 6 feet 7 inches and wearing a size 17 shoe, the "big man" of North Lake's Men's Blazers basketball team is making his mark.
Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Dallas, Whitaker has always made the best of what he was given.
"I've been through a lot, but that's what makes a person strong," he said.
A child of divorce, he and his mother moved in with family members while she put herself through school. At the time, he described himself as quiet and relatively small for his age, only reaching 5 feet 6 inches in the 8th grade.
"I was always shorter than all of my friends," Whitaker said. "And I wasn't really athletic."
He had played basketball recreationally, but lacked experience and proper training. So it came as no surprise when he tried out for the school's basketball team and didn't make the roster. It wasn't until his senior year that he reached 6-foot, giving him height advantage while playing his position as guard.
After graduation, he enrolled at Texas Tech University, but attended only for a short time, due to his family's financial troubles. He was forced to drop out and return home where he worked full-time at Home Depot for the next two years.
When asked about the decision to leave school, Whitaker said, "It was my responsibility to help out my family. They would've done the same for me."
While supporting three people on his salary and wondering what was in store for his future, he grew another four inches and continued to play in various recreational leagues. After one of his rec-league games, Whitaker met North Lake College basketball alum, Terry Duncan, who referred him to Tim McGraw, head coach of the Blazers, insisting that he deserved a spot on the NLC roster.
"People will promise you things but rarely follow through, so I wasn't really expecting anything," said Whitaker.
He was more than surprised to receive a phone call from McGraw the following week. It was then that his mother gave him her blessing to take the opportunity to play while he still had the chance.
McGraw watched one of Whitaker's rec-league games, and witnessed the talent he possessed firsthand.
"I saw potential," McGraw said about Whitaker. "He was inexperienced but coachable, I knew he'd be a great asset to my team."
By the time he enrolled at North Lake, he was a staggering 6-foot-7 inches, and playing center.
"I was lucky to grow this tall, so I just use my height to my advantage when playing guard or center," he said.
Although skilled in his area of practice, he is no stranger to injury. Breaking his nose on his third day of practice last season, he has learned that sports-related injuries are somewhat inevitable.
"This season I tore the meniscal cartilage in my knee on my second day of practice, I had surgery shortly after and I'm still in the healing process." he said. "My knee still gets stiff sometimes but wearing my brace during practice helps. I'm just excited for us to do well this season."
He's proven his determination with continuous effort and a drive most players lack.
"I was told by my head coach that I'm only 30 percent of the player I could be, and I think that's what motivates me most. I want to be the best I can be," Whitaker said.
With hopes of transferring to Texas Weslayan University in fall 2016, Whitaker is confident that the Blazers can expect constant effort from him and his absolute best.