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Northern basketball star taking her game to Florida

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Dave Paul

Abby Whiteye’s hoops career got off to a shaky start.

The senior at Northern Collegiate recalls trying out for her first basketball travel team in Grade 5 and being cut from the roster.

But, thanks to the keen eye of a sagacious coach, she was quickly reconnected to the sport and hasn’t looked back.

John Thrasher, who would later coach Whiteye during her career at Northern, selected her to play for a boys’ team of the same age group he was assembling.

Now, seven years later, Whiteye has accepted a basketball scholarship to Eckerd College, a private liberal arts school in St. Petersburg, Florida.

She’d been actively recruited by the college and chose Eckerd after visiting the school in early September, she said.

“I play for a team in the summer, the Hamilton Blue Stars, and we go to exposure tournaments in the states. I think the (Eckerd) coach saw me at a tournament in Washington, DC, she said.

“We kept in contact by Skype and we decided that I should come for a visit.”

Abby and her family’s visit coincided with Hurricane Hermine hitting Florida’s gulf coast.

St. Petersburg boasts 361 days of sunshine a year, said Abby’s mother Patti. “But we didn’t see the sun for the entire 48 hours we were there.”

The campus was largely shut down by the storm but Abby toured it on foot, getting very wet in the process. She practiced with some of the girls on the team by the end of the visit had made up her mind.

“If she liked it in those conditions, we figured she must really like it,” her mother said.

Eckerd competes in the NCAA Division II Sunshine State Conference. Students are not required to choose a major until their third year.

Whiteye said she hopes eventually to go to medical school.

“I’d like to be an orthopedic surgeon, if possible. But that might change,” she said.

She has mixed feelings about her high school days coming to an end, she added.

“Some days I think I’m ready to move on, see new things. And some days, I start thinking, I may never see these people again – or have long distance relationships with them at best.

“But, overall, I think I’m ready for a new experience.”

Whiteye credits “amazing coaches” with helping her succeed.

“They would always spend extra time in the gym with me. All I had to do was ask,” she says, adding Coach Thrasher would come in early a couple of days a week and Kendel Ross would show up before school three times weekly to do extra work with players.

Rob Angione, who coaches the London Ramblers travel team Whiteye will be playing for this winter, was also willing to show up prior to regularly scheduled practices, she said.

“He let’s me have the gym – sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes an hour early,”

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