Local prep stars found few rewards at in-state colleges

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                </div>A high school athlete that wants to have a college career at a school that is close to home makes an easy target for in-state recruiters. If it’s a school […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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A high school athlete that wants to have a college career at a school that is close to home makes an easy target for in-state recruiters.

If it’s a school that is coming off some down years, the recruiter’s pitch will certainly include an appeal to the athlete’s ego, presenting the local opportunity as a challenge to take the lead in a high-profile rebuilding effort.   It’s a hard emotional sell that more-often-than-not works.

Sometimes it works to the benefit of both the school and the athlete.  Sometimes, it doesn’t work out as planned – and the player finishes an otherwise stellar career stuck on a team that goes nowhere.  And that means little or no major exposure for the athlete, who never gets to enjoy the rewards of championships or post-season play.

Two of Arizona’s top prep athletes just wrapped up basketball careers at different in-state universities, but with the same disappointing result.  They both hoped to be the catalyst for reviving moribund programs, but found it took more than any one person could accomplish.

Davellyn Whyte was selected as the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year in her senior year at St. Mary’s High School, a Catholic school in downtown Phoenix.  Amy Patton was the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year during her junior year at McClintock High School in Tempe.

Each had prep careers that were worthy of a second look from major-college recruiters.

Patton was perhaps the most elite women’s basketball prospect to ever fall into the recruiting nets at NAU.  She averaged 31 points and 14 rebounds during her four years at McClintock and was named The Arizona Republic’s Player of the Year as a senior.

Whyte led her St. Mary’s team to a state championship as a freshman and a runner-up finish as a senior.  She was named the Region Player of the Year her last three seasons, and was a three-time All-State pick.

Both went on to set scoring records in college – but only Whyte ever made it to the post-season.  One time.  Her Arizona Wildcats won 20 games but were passed over for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament her sophomore year, playing instead in the WNIT; every other year the program posted a losing season.

Patton wasn’t so lucky.  She never got to enjoy the rewards of a winning season at the Flagstaff school; three of the four seasons, the Lumberjacks didn’t even reach double-digit wins.  A change in head coaches her final year didn’t make much difference as the Jacks closed out this season 8-21.

The former high school stars just couldn’t pull their respective schools out of the malaise that each had fallen into over recent years.

But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Patton, a 5’10 guard, led the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes played since her sophomore season.  Her freshman year she was named the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year.  That was also the year she broke a 25-year-old school record for single-season scoring with 539 points.

This season she was the bright spot in yet another disappointing season as she led the Big Sky Conference in scoring all the way through the 2012-13 schedule.  She finished her senior season with 17.2 points a game – two points per game better than any other player in the conference.

She also used her final campaign to shatter NAU’s all-time scoring record.  And her 1,938 career points puts her fifth in Big Sky history.

The new school records she set include rebounds (831), field goals made (738), and a tie for 3-point goals made (193).  She recorded three of the five highest-scoring single seasons in program history; she went off for 41 points in a game against Bradley in November (which tied the Big Sky record).

For her senior finale, she posted eight games with 20 or more points and three games with 30 or more, and had 24 games of double-digit scoring.

And, while Patton was busy re-writing the record books up in Flag, Whyte set about doing the same thing down in the Old Pueblo.

The 5’11” guard topped the 2,000-point summit during her four years with the Wildcat program.  Her 2,059 career points are the second-highest in program history.

She played in 126 games while wearing the red and blue, and scored in double figures in 100 of those games.  She scored 20 or more points in 35 games and 30 or more in five.

And she was a starter in every one of those 126 games.  The 4,243 minutes she contributed to the failed turnaround effort are more than any other player in the history of the Arizona women’s basketball program.

She also recorded the first triple-double in program history this year when she scored 31 points, pulled down 16 boards, and threw in 10 assists for as complete a game as one can play.  Many consider her to be the best all-around women’s player to ever step onto the court in McKale Center.

For Whyte, this may not be the end of basketball.  She has always had her sights on playing in the WNBA.

In a couple of weeks she will know whether that dream will be realized.  The 2013 WNBA Draft is scheduled for April 15.

Maybe she’ll find a spot on a team that can take her dreams beyond what she was able to realize in Tucson.