Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
2019-20 season review: Jimmy Whitt
Arkansas guards Jimmy Whitt (33) and Jalen Harris (5) react to a made basket during a game against Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Fayetteville.
The ninth in a nine-part series reviewing Arkansas basketball in 2019-20.
Class: Senior (Graduate transfer)
Stats: 14.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, .4 blocks, 1.4 steals
48.7 percent FG; 48.8 percent 2-point FG; 70.7 percent free throws
Per 40: 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, .5 blocks, 1.5 steals
SEC stats: 14.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, .4 blocks, 1.4 steals
46.0 percent FG; 46.2 percent 2-point FG; 72.0 percent free throws
SEC home: 13.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals
46.0 percent FG; 46.5 percent 2-point FG; 0 of 1 on 3FG, 71.4 percent free throws
SEC road: 15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.6 steals
46.0 percent FG; 46.0 percent 2-point FG; 0 3FG attempted, 72.3 percent free throws
Best month: January - 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, .8 blocks, .9 steals
51.5 percent FG; 52.0 percent 2-point FG; 76.9 percent free throws
Worst month: February - 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, .1 blocks, 1.8 steals
40.2 percent FG; 40.2 percent 2-point FG; 71.4 percent free throws
• Killer midrange game. When Arkansas fans remember Jimmy Whitt years from now, this is what will come to mind first. He was absolutely deadly from 8-15 feet out. The first game we saw Whitt dominate from this range was against South Dakota when he went for 24 points on 11 of 14 shooting. He knocked down 9 of 12 jumpers - 4 of 5 left of the lane, 3 of 5 center of the floor, 2 of 2 right of the lane - in the win. He was brilliant, and after the game, Eric Musselman made it a point to tell all the analytics people in basketball that Whitt is singlehandedly bringing the midrange game back from the dead.
Other games in which he hurt opposing teams with that unique jumper were at LSU (8 of 12), vs. Missouri (6 of 10) and Vanderbilt in Bud Walton Arena (6 of 13). Whitt had such an unbelievable knack for getting to his spots and knocking down some tough shots that many coaches would shake their heads at. That was his bread and butter, though, and Musselman let him do his thing.
Whitt operated left of the lane most often, and he finished the season 42 of 93 in that area, according to my shot chart data. He made a season-high 14 2-point attempts in that pocket in January on 28 attempts. In the middle of the floor, he hit 34 of 70 jumpers, and right of the lane he connected on 20 of 56 such shots. On all 2-point jumpshots this season, I had him shooting 43.8 percent.
• Took care of the basketball. This is a part of Whitt's game that got overlooked a little bit simply because he did a number of other things so well. Once the calendar turned to 2020, Whitt had only one game in which he committed three turnovers - a span of 20 games. He finished the season with a turnover rate of 10.3 percent, which placed him No. 71 nationally, per KenPom. In SEC games, that number dropped to 9.3 percent, and it was good for No. 2 in the league behind Vanderbilt's Maxwell Evans.
Whitt did not turn the ball over in a pair of conference games, and early in the season against Texas Southern, South Dakota and Georgia Tech he played a combined 113 minutes without a miscue. That run came after a four-turnover outing against Montana. What he did valuing the basketball is all the more impressive when you consider he had only 44 over 2,143 offensive possessions, according to HoopLens.
• Accepted defensive challenge each game. Whitt's length and instincts on the defensive end paid big dividends for the Razorbacks this season. Musselman assigned Whitt the opposing team's best player more often than not, regardless of position. He willingly defended Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis and Georgia Tech forward James Banks, and in SEC play he was tasked with slowing guards like Santiago Vescovi, who is one of the craftiest players in the conference.
His efforts on that end helped Arkansas slow TCU guard Desmond Bane. He scored just eight points on six shots one game after dropping 27 on Texas Tech, which finished with the No. 9 defense in the country in terms of defensive efficiency, per KenPom. Musselman labeled Whitt an NBA-level defender during conference play, and he added that NBA minds took note of his play. He impacted the game in a big way here, and he did it as a low fouls-committed player - 2.5 fouls per 40 minutes played.
• Plus rebounder at 6-3. One of the main reasons Musselman went so hard after Whitt in the transfer portal was because he felt like Whitt was one of the best rebounding guards in the nation. He lived up to that talk quite a bit this season. He grabbed seven-plus rebounds in nine games in 2019-20 and recorded a career-high 15 in his final game in Bud Walton Arena.
He was another player who I thought was very good at tapping 50-50 rebounds to teammates when he wasn't able to secure the ball with two hands. Whitt led the Razorbacks with 41 offensive rebounds and was second in defensive rebounds (123).
• Wanted to throw in this note: Whitt became the first Arkansas player since at least 2010-11 to score 25-plus points, grab 15 rebounds and finish with five assists in a game when he went for 26-15-5 against LSU on his Senior Night.
• Whitt led Arkansas with 112 scores in the lane on 205 attempts, and he was second on the team with 66 buckets at the rim, finishing at a 63.5-percent rate.
• Struggled without true floor spacer in Isaiah Joe. When the Razorbacks' sophomore sharpshooter was out for an extended time following knee surgery, that was when we saw Whitt have his troubles getting to his spots. Without Joe on the floor keeping defenses honest, they could compress the floor and take away a lot of the space Whitt was accustomed to operating in.
In the six games Joe sat, Whitt he went 8 of 20 on 2-point jumpers left of the lane, 0 of 4 above the foul line and 1 of 11 on the right side of the floor. He also made just 13 of 30 attempts in the painted area in the first five games Joe missed. In Joe's first game back, Whitt hit 6 of 10 jumpers and began to get back into a groove.
• Disappeared from time to time scoring-wise. Whitt did not have off shooting nights very often, but he did a handful of times this season, which, given the length of a season, is bound to happen to any player. The games that stand out in that regard are Georgia Tech (6 points, 3 of 12 FG), Ole Miss (11, 2 of 9), Kentucky (14, 3 of 9), South Carolina (7, 2 of 7) and Auburn (0, 0 of 7).
In those five games, Whitt knocked down 7 of 32 2-point jumpers - 4 of 14 left, 3 of 13 center, 0 of 5 right - and finished just 6 of 24 attempts in the lane. In fairness, Whitt battled a pair of injuries this season to his back and calf, so those had a bit to do with the subpar showings. Musselman noted after the Auburn loss that Whitt's back tightened up on him in the second half.
In my opinion, he could have asserted himself more in a couple of games, like against Kentucky and at Georgia. He did not score in the first half of the loss to the Wildcats and added eight of his 14 points in the last two minutes once the game was out of reach. Whitt also took six shots against the Bulldogs, but to his credit he did record a season-high six assists.
On floor: Offense (2,143 poss.) - 1.03 PPP, 14.7 percent TO rate, 34.7 percent 3FG; Defense (2,152 poss.) - .94 PPP, 21.0 percent TO rate, 27.6 percent 3FG
Off floor: Offense (263 poss.) - .83 PPP, 20.5 percent TO rate, 23.8 percent 3FG; Defense (257 poss.) - .85 PPP, 23.3 percent TO rate, 25.4 percent 3FG
Best Whitt quote: "(That moment is) definitely No. 1. One hundred percent. It was just one of those plays. You know me, I really don’t get too excited on the court, but that one was big for me. I felt that for sure." - Whitt on his monster putback dunk against LSU on Senior Night
Best quote on Whitt: "For all those analytics guys who think the midrange game has gone out of basketball, welcome to Jimmy Whitt’s world." - Eric Musselman after Whitt scored 24 points on 11 of 14 shooting against South Dakota on Nov. 22
Season review series
Part 1: Desi Sills
Part 2: Isaiah Joe
Part 3: Adrio Bailey
Part 4: Mason Jones
Part 5: Jalen Harris
Part 6: Reggie Chaney
Part 7: Ethan Henderson
Part 8: Jeantal Cylla
Thank you for following along throughout the entire 2019-20 season review series. I hope you all had as much fun reviewing and reliving this season as I did.
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