Flenard Whitfield: “Momma’s Boy”

November 13, 2010

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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