By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

No matter how good or bad his performance may be, Western Michigan University junior Flenard Whitfield knows one thing will stay consistent at every home basketball game.

He can always count on seeing the familiar face of his mother in the audience serving as his biggest supporter.

She clears her schedule and makes the two-hour trip from Detroit to Kalamazoo for every WMU home game in University Arena to see her son participate in his favorite activity.

“I think it’s very important. I’ve been with Flen from day one. I was his first coach and I think it keeps his spirit up when he sees his family there to help support him,” Flen’s mother, Jackie Whitfield, said. “Then also, when he’s down, I always give him a thumbs up to let him know that ‘You’re ok,’ so I think it’s very important for a parent to support their children because it’s nothing like having family.”

Whitfield needs that support now more than ever as he enters his junior year as the clear-cut leader of the men’s hoops squad.

In his first two seasons, he had the luxury of playing under veterans Donald Lawson, David Kool and Martelle McLemore, who all embraced that leadership role quite comfortably. They made it easy for Whitfield because he was able to focus strictly on improving himself and adjusting to college basketball after four stellar seasons at Detroit’s Martin Luther King High School in both football and basketball.

In football, he was named as “Most Outstanding Wide Receiver” after his senior year and passed on a big-time Division I football scholarship offers from programs like Louisiana State University, University of Michigan, and University of Florida to play basketball for WMU.

Although Whitfield wasn’t in the chief position like the older players initially, he knew it wouldn’t be long before he was.

“Coming in as a freshman, I knew it was coming one of these days where I had to take over and be a leader but I just took a lot of examples and paid attention a little more than anybody else did,” Whitfield said. “I worked on a lot of leading by example. I think I’ve been a vocal guy before even coming in as a freshman but I’ve been leading more by example this year.”

Prior to training camp, the team was unsure of who would take on that challenge. They looked like a completely revamped roster compared to last season and the new players had to get adjusted to one another.

By the end of the summer, it was clear that the torch had been passed to Whitfield based on his hard work, determination and willingness to step into that role.

His teammates also believe in his ability which sets him up in an even better position.

“Flen’s a great leader. He does lead by example very well and he’s really vocal but this year, more than anything, we’ve learned how to be vocal without talking down to somebody and that’s something we’ve had to work on,” WMU forward Nate Hutcheson said. “During the summer, we didn’t know who the leader was and Flen grasped that role and took it so he’s our leader.”

Since his freshman year, Whitfield has been determined to succeed by making huge strides every off-season.

In the 2008-09 season, he only averaged 5.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds but came back in the 2009-10 season and upped his average to 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds on 50.6 percent shooting.

He was even named WMU’s “Most Improved Player.”

The odds are in his favor that this season will be an even better year. He showed glimpses of what he’s capable of in the Broncos’ second exhibition contest against Kalamazoo College where he scored 18 points and snatched seven rebounds.

After watching Whitfield’s tremendous growth, those close to him can’t help but to be proud.

“It’s very rewarding to finally see his hard work pay off,” Flen’s mother Jackie said. “I’ve watched this kid grow and develop to the young man he is through hard work and not just because he’s my son but I’ve watched him literally work his butt off to get here. He would do anything to get here so it’s very rewarding to see him take over as the leader because hard work does pay off.”

While the 6-foot-7-inch, 230 pound Detroit native may be a ferocious competitor on the court, off the court he’s a cream puff when it comes to his mother.

“He’s always gonna be ‘Momma’s Boy,’ that’s a given! That’s my only son of four children and I love him to death and he knows I love him to death, that’s my baby,” Jackie said. “So yeah, he’s a ‘Momma’s Boy,’ but that’s a good thing because I teach him how to be a man too he’s not spoiled because I will get in his butt.”

Flenard’s first real leadership test will come against Xavier University when they host the Broncos on their home court to kick off the season on Friday, Nov. 12, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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J. Cole performs at Miller

November 8, 2010

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

The crowd at Western Michigan University grew anxious. A bright red curtain closing off the stage was all that separated them from seeing Roc Nation artist, J. Cole, live in Miller Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 6.

The crowd was entertained for nearly an hour with three opening acts, including Grand Rapids native, Willie the Kid, who is a protégé of DJ Drama.

As time ticked by, people continued to claim their seats and pack the building. At around 8:20 p.m., the main attraction strolled onto the stage with a big smile on his face. Rocking a pair of black and gray original Air Jordan 3s, a black polo t-shirt and a navy blue and white jacket to match his Detroit Tigers baseball cap, J. Cole proceeded to put on his show.

He didn’t use any special props or lighting, just the bare essentials of hip-hop: a microphone, a spotlight, a DJ and a piano player. This did not seem to be a problem to anyone, as fans shouted and cameras flashed from everywhere with people trying to capture an image of the up-and-coming artist in action.

“Western Michigan [University], what’s up?” J. Cole shouted over the screams. “This gonna be a good crowd; I thought it was gonna be like 10 people in here.”

Although J. Cole hasn’t released an official studio album, it seemed as though the vast majority knew all of the words to each of his singles. In 2007, he dropped his first mixtape dubbed “The Come Up” and in 2009 he followed up with another mixtape titled “The Warm Up.” The songs from these pieces served as the fuel to the crowd’s fire as they were charged up all night.

While the crisp instrumentals played in the background from his DJ and piano man, he passionately performed songs such as “Welcome,” “Dollar and a Dream” and “Lights Please.” In fact, he even attempted to play the piano in the midst performing “Lights Please,” but had to stop as he busted out laughing after realizing he wouldn’t be able to rap and play at the same time for the entire song.

He frequently encouraged the audience to be interactive between each of his songs by asking them to do things such as waving their hands, throwing up their diamonds and raising their index fingers to represent certain themes of his songs.

He also informed listeners that he did have a legitimate connection to the state.

“I love Michigan! I got a lot of support and a lot of family in Michigan, like Eaton Rapids. Y’all heard of Eaton Rapids, Michigan?” J. Cole asked.

Near the end, J. Cole wrapped up with a few popular hits that he was featured on with known artists like Wale and Miguel. He performed “All I Want Is You,” “Beautiful Bliss,” “Who Dat,” “Blow Up” and ended with “A Star Is Born,” a song that he collaborated on with Jay-Z from his last album “The Blueprint 3.”

At 9:13 p.m., J. Cole exited the stage and Chris Bellomy, a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, thanked everyone for supporting the event, before concluding the concert. The quality of J. Cole’s routine left fans in a frenzy and broadened his fan base to a few in the audience who may not have been as familiar with his music as others.

“I’m a way bigger fan after seeing him in person. Before, I had only listened to Drake because they’re somewhat rivals so now I’m starting to like J. Cole too,” WMU senior Geremy Hill said after the concert. “I was shocked when he actually played the piano and rapped at the same time, that took a lot of talent to do that and he’s a good artist and I can see him being in the top five in the next couple years.”

“It was a wonderful experience. J. Cole performed well and the audience was very into the show,” WMU junior Julia Cooper said. “My favorite part was him getting involved with the audience by talking to us and kind of getting us into the concert.”

J. Cole plans to release his first album in early 2011. A title for this project should be released in the upcoming weeks.

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

Roc Nation recording artist J. Cole knows a thing or two about the college life. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a “college boy” himself. He graduated from St. John’s University Magna Cum Laude on an academic scholarship in 2007 before eventually meeting Jay-Z and becoming the first artist signed to the legend’s new record label.

J. Cole was initially shunned by Jay-Z. But with a little ambition and dedication to his craft, he stayed persistent and eventually won him over. He’s now one of hip-hop’s hottest up and coming artists. On Saturday, Nov. 6, the North Carolina native made a stop in Kalamazoo to perform for the college students at Western Michigan University in Miller Auditorium. Before his show began, J. Cole had a few things to say about performing in Michigan, pressures to succeed and working with Jay-Z.

Eric Woodyard: Can you talk about how everything came about with you deciding to do a concert at Western Michigan University?

J.Cole: A tour was put together for me, and then I guess Western Michigan was interested in booking me luckily. That’s all I really know. I don’t really know the specifics because I don’t handle my bookings but I’m glad to be there. Every time I come to Michigan they show me a lot of love and hopefully this will be no different.

EW: How important do you think it is for you to tackle the college audience? Especially with your album in the works…

JC: Aw man, I think the college audience is really probably one of my most important [audiences] because I seen two artists, when I was in college, blow up like right before my eyes really, right in college and they just happened to be some of my favorite rappers. Like Kanye [West] and I think it had a lot to do with his college following. And then Lil Wayne too, because you got so many people from all around the country and they all rally around this one artist, and when they go home they spread the gossip about how good they think he is, so I think college is super duper important.

EW: Can you talk about your college experience a little bit? I know you graduated from St. John’s University, right? Do you have any wild stories?

JC: I ain’t got no crazy stories, but I had a real good time and I truly enjoyed my college experience. I wouldn’t change nothing about that. I love school and school was real fun, and it was a real good experience for me.

EW: With so many rising artists like Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa, how much of a challenge do you feel it is to separate yourself from the pack and bring something new to the table?

JC: I feel like if I just continue to be myself then the difference will show. You know, all these guys are super talented, but all our stories are different and we got different things to say so I mean, as long as I stay true to myself and not try to be like anybody else I feel like the difference between us will shine.

EW: Do you feel any pressure to make and produce hot music, especially with Jay-Z in your corner and being the first artist signed to Roc Nation?

JC: Yeah, I feel pressured just from my high expectations of myself and just the things I want from myself and out of my career, so that’s the kind of pressure I feel. You know, it’s a good pressure.

EW: How is it working with Jay-Z?

JC: Man, it’s incredible! Like sometimes I gotta pinch myself, you know what I’m saying? Then realize like if I’m sitting in a room with him and we just talking then I gotta step out of the conversation and have a out-of-body experience and just realize that I’m sitting in a room with the greatest rapper of all time arguably. So it’s an incredible experience.

EW: Is there one thing that you learned about him that really shocked you?

JC: Nothing really shocked me. It’s just funny because you can just tell he really is still who he was when he came in. Of course he’s grown so much and he’s older, but every now and then you can just see the real Brooklyn in him you know what I’m saying? You will see that side of him. Just through like, conversation or whatever, it just will come out, and he’s funny as hell to watch.

EW: You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists, what would you say your favorite collaboration was out of all of them?

JC: My favorite collaboration was with probably Miguel, I love the Miguel song. So yeah, probably the Miguel song from this year because it’s such a great song.

EW: How far along is your solo project? Is it still gonna be called “Cole World?”

JC: Nah, we not calling it “Cole World.” We should put the title out soon but I’m practically finished, man. I’m gonna go back there in early December for about three weeks to finish it all the way up.

EW: So you’re looking to drop it early next year?

JC: Yeah, probably like February or March and put out the single towards Thanksgiving and then we outta there.

EW: What are your ultimate goals as an artist?

JC: I would like to just be around for a long time and just be on top for a long time. Once I get to the top I don’t plan on ever letting it go. So like Jay was one of the only ones to really successfully accomplish that, and Eminem too to a degree, and Kanye helped maintain that and I just want to be like one of those guys like once I get to the top, I will never let up. That type of thing and that’s where I really wanna be five years from now.

EW: What should Western Michigan University expect from J. Cole tonight? Last year Big Sean did his thing but what is J. Cole gonna bring new to us this year?

JC: Tonight I’m not even gonna have the band so I’m taking it back to the old school J. Cole shows and performances with two turn tables and a mic so it’s a lot of real good-a– raps and I try to give my all to the crowd and really give them a lot of my personality. I think when people come to the shows, they want to do more than just rap along with your songs, they want to like really feel your personality and feel your energy and I’m gonna try to give a lot of that. So I hope they show me some love.


By Eric Woodyard (Western Herald)

Kalamazoo College did lead at one point in their basketball game against Western Michigan University on Saturday, Nov. 6 in University Arena.

They literally led by one point in the first half at the 17:09 mark and by the 2:39 mark of the second half, they trailed by 60 points.

WMU defeated K-College, 93-35, in their final exhibition contest in front of 2,018 loyal fans in Kalamazoo. While the last game was a bit competitive against Spring Arbor University on Tuesday, which they trailed most of the first the half before eventually winning 64-53, this match-up was one sided from the jump.

By halftime, WMU led 51-14.

“I thought that it was so much better today than it was Tuesday night and what I was looking for today happened and that was a mark of improvement and organization,” Bronco head coach Steve Hawkins said. “What I look for is not what the general fan might look for, what I’m looking for is to actually play better, not individually but as a team and we were much more organized.”

The Broncos were led by the aggressive play of Flenard Whitfield and Nate Hutcheson. Whitfield chipped in 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Hutcheson scored 19 points and picked up nine rebounds.

Freshman center Matt Stainbrook scored 13 points and snatched eoght rebounds in 20 minutes of action as well.

Whitfield relishes his new role as the team’s leader with the departure of last year’s seniors, Donald Lawson, David Kool and Martelle McLemore.

“Coming in as a freshman, I knew it was coming one of these days where I had to take over and be a leader but I just took a lot of examples and paid attention a little more than anybody else did,” Whitfield said. “I worked on a lot of leading by example. I think I’ve been a vocal guy before even coming in as a freshman but I’ve been leading more by example this year.”

The bench of the Broncos played a huge role in the victory as they produced 45 points.

WMU also connected on 54.3 percent of their field goal attempts for the entire game opposed to K-College’s 21.6 percent.

No player scored in double-figures for the Hornets as Eric Fishman led the team with eight points and six rebounds. Harold Hermanson chipped in seven points on 2-for-10 shooting.

Prior to this game, Hawkins had been experimenting with different starting line ups to see which one would work the best.

With no set roster, the players needed to build their confidence in some way and K-College served as the perfect building block.

“Confidence is a big deal going into the season especially when you’re opening up with Xavier like we are,” Hutcheson said. “They’re a big tough team and we’re gonna need the confidence and also today was really good for going through plays and all that kind of stuff just to go against somebody else besides ourself.”

WMU will kick off the season on Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. when they travel to Cincinnati, Ohio to take on Xavier University on their home court.

Xavier has made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen the past two seasons.