By Ray Hamill — It’s safe to say McKinleyville senior Cody Whitmer will remember his final season with the Panthers.
It wasn’t all pretty — the Big 5 didn’t turn out the way he and his teammates would have liked — but the Panthers saved the best for last and so too did Whitmer.
The dynamic senior guard stole the show in a thrilling Dick Niclai tournament final played in front of the biggest crowd of the season and an atmosphere as pressure-filled as any.
It was that sort of clutch performance — he also nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Arcata earlier in the season — as well as the respect he garners form his teammates and players around the league, and the consistency he displayed all season long that makes Whitmer our choice for Humboldt Sports Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
He was the most consistently dynamic offensive threat in the league this year and a player opposing coaches always had to account for, stepping up his game when it mattered the most and sending the McKinleyville student section into a frenzy time after time with his clutch 3-point shooting.
“He has always been a great shooter but really stepped up his game to become an effective player in all aspects of the game,” McKinleyville head coach Cindy Semore Clancy said.
Assistant coach Tyler Pelascini echoed the sentiment.
“The growth throughout the season Cody demonstrated physically, and even more so mentally, allowed him to make the impressive leap from being looked upon as a quality shooter to a dominant all-around basketball player,” he said. “The respect he drew from his teammates, coaches and opponents only further exemplified his athletic maturity he achieved this season.”
Our player of the year award takes into account not just a player’s talents and how well he performed, but also how he carries himself on the court, how he plays in the biggest moments of the season, how much opposing players and coaches respect him as a player and fear him as an opponent, and the difference he makes to his team.
Like Lili Nunez, who is our Girls Player of the Year, Whitmer ticked every box and then some.
Admittedly, it was a very close call between him and our runner-up, Luke Moxon of Arcata.
To be named all-league after your sophomore season is impressive, but to be named co-MVP of the Big 5 after your sophomore season is exceptional.
It’s even more impressive when you consider that this sensational sophomore played a limited role as a freshman and had his eighth-grade season canceled because of the pandemic.
The improvement Moxon made this year was nothing short of incredible.
“From his freshman year to this year, I didn’t know what I was going to get,” Arcata coach Kellen Maynard admitted when Moxon was named co-MVP of the Big 5 “It really is a testament to him and his hard work to go from where he was to where he is now. He has the ability to finish at the basket and rebound and run the break.”
Moxon averaged close to a double double this season, scoring 17 points a game and coming close to 10 boards.
And he will likely be the most dangerous player in the H-DN for the next two years.
The sky’s the limit for this fast-improving and hard-working sophomore, especially when you take into account his character and the respect he already has from players and coaches around the league, as well as his teammates, who voted him team captain this year.