Witherspoon's defense-first attitude helps lift La Salle

Posted: January 26, 2014

IF ANYONE at Bishop McDevitt was unclear as to what exactly La Salle's Shawn Witherspoon enjoys on the basketball court, the 6-2 junior guard stretched his lungs yesterday to eliminate any confusion.

Witherspoon crouched low in a defensive posture as McDevitt star Tyrell Long, a 6-5 forward, approached with the ball. After a few herky-jerky moves by Long, Witherspoon held his ground and forced the big man to pick up the ball.

"I love it! I love it!" Witherspoon growled. Long was forced to pass the ball, and the play eventually resulted in a McDevitt turnover. And, in case you didn't catch it the first time . . .

"I love it!" Witherspoon snarled again.

The Explorers (14-3, 6-2 Catholic League) eventually rolled, 76-54, thanks in part to 20 points from junior forward David Krmpotich (10 of 12), but stingy defense certainly didn't hurt.

"I love defending more than I love scoring," Witherspoon said. "If I can't make [shots] on offense, I'll make your life hell on defense."

He did manage 10 points and eight assists, but where does that fire come from?

"Just being a city kid," he continued. "Just having respect for myself and dignity. Knowing that no one one's going to score on me easily. You'll have to earn all your points."

Speaking of earning . . . Report cards came out yesterday, and the Olney resident checked in on the preferred side of the alphabet (A-minus, B-plus, B-plus, B and B-minus).

It's all part of his master plan.

"I just want to go to college for free, so that my mom and dad don't have to pay for me," he said. "I just owe it to them and to myself, and I've worked too hard not to finish all the way out."

The pass-first point guard's skills on the court could help. He has drawn some modest interest, and college coaches typically covet floor leaders who put the team first and hunt for open teammates instead of open shots.

A third-quarter steal illustrated the point when Witherspoon burst into the open court after a steal with nothing but freedom ahead. Instead, he dropped off the ball to senior forward Jalen Herdsman for any easy basket. An unselfish play for sure; just doesn't mess with the young man's dimes!

Herdsman awkwardly caught the ball and missed the layup.

"He was calling my name," Witherspoon said, smiling. "I was like, 'Don't ever call me like that again if you're gonna miss!' I don't mind if you make it, but don't miss!"

La Salle's defense and exceptionally efficient offense gave the Explorers plenty to smile about.

They shot 33-for-50 (66 percent) from the field, and only Herdsman and Mick Bennett missed more than three shots. Najee Walls added 15 points for La Salle.

Long and Jayson Clark both netted 14 for the Lancers (8-9, 3-5).

As for Witherspoon, whose father Shawn Sr., put a basketball in his hands at age 3, he just wants his hard work to repay his folks.

He lives with his mom, Akilah, his dad and a younger sister. He also credits an uncle, Daymond, with getting him started in basketball. Daymond and Shawn Sr. played basketball at Overbrook.

"They've worked hard and missed some of my games, so that I could go to a great school like La Salle, and that tuition isn't cheap!" Witherspoon said. "So, I owe it to them that they shouldn't have to pay for college."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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