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#TGW: On Guard

Dec. 16, 2015

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word

– If per chance anyone were still looking for proof that Aaliyah Whiteside has turned her upside into next-level reality, the indefatigable guard offered yet another referendum Tuesday night with her fourth consecutive double-double.

With Kaela Davis having transferred to South Carolina, there’s more space for Whiteside, and she’s filling it in every way.

She went for 14 points and 11 assists as the Georgia Tech women overwhelmed Prairie View A&M, 96-48, in McCamish Pavilion.

When you lead the ACC in scoring (20.5 points per game), and are pacing the Jackets in rebounding (8.4) and assists (4.0) while second in steals (2.0) – like Whiteside – it’s easy to make points. Her three previous double-doubles were of the points-rebounds variety rather than points-assists.

Roddreka Rogers led Tech (8-3) with a career-high 25 points, yet a spotlight must shine on Whiteside for sake of her building body of work, her consistency.

Although she missed a triple-double by one rebound, the senior authored another fine chapter in what is becoming a fantastic book.

Earlier this week, head coach MaChelle Joseph suggested, “I think she’s one of the most-improved players in the ACC.”

Tuesday, Joseph said, “She’s having such an outstanding senior year. She’s doing it in every area. To have a double-double in points and assists is a tribute to her unselfishness.”

You might say Whiteside did her work quietly as Rogers hit all 11 of her shots to headline. That’s the way lefty has rolled.

As often and not in her first two seasons, the 6-foot senior from Memphis was a backgrounder, coming off the bench in more than half the 60 games she played. Last season, she supported the Kaela Davis show.

She’s front and center now, although that doesn’t means she’s firing away.

Whiteside has scored at least 21 points in nine of 11 games, yet didn’t attempt her first shot against Samford Sunday until two minutes were gone in the second quarter. She led the Jackets with 23 points and 10 rebounds, adding three assists and two steals.

“I was patient with it,” she said. “I know my teammates will find me. I thought in the second quarter, I got a little something going.”

Whiteside hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere.

She was Tech’s second-leading scorer (13.4) last season, second-leading rebounder (6.4) and had more assists (73) than anyone else.

This season she’s so more.

Whiteside has scored 25.9 percent of her team’s points this season on 24.1 percent of Tech’s shots.

“She was always a role player and she accepted her role,” Joseph said. “She’s getting the same shots that a Kaela Davis got last year, but she’s more efficient. She makes shots. She’s getting 20 points on 12 shots. I think that thing that’s most impressive is how she’s stepped up and accepted that role.”

By hitting 41.8 percent of her shots, Whiteside starts her scoring sprees. She offsets her 3-point numbers (10-of-48, 20.8 percent) from the free throw line.

Whiteside has a knack for getting there, and making them.

Her 92 free throws represent 38.3 percent of Tech’s total tries. And she’s making 79.3 percent. She began the season as the fourth-most accurate free throw shooting in program history, at 78.8.

That’s nothing new. She took a team-high 167 free throws last season, even though the ball was in Davis’ hands much more, and made 83.2 percent.

Now, 32.4 percent of her points are coming from the line. All other Jackets are scoring a combined 16 percent of their points on free throws.

So, she knows how to draw a foul and make opponents pay.

Whiteside’s not all about scoring, though.

She has 23.8 percent of Tech’s 185 assists with 44. Point guards Imani Tilford and Ciani Cryor have combined for 53 dimes in 111 more combined playing minutes.

As Joseph said, “She wants to win.”

Sign the girl from Memphis up for that.

“I definitely want the ball. That’s my role on the team, to be a go-to player,” Whiteside said. “It’s really fun to have shooters out there who can shoot it like crazy because when they’re packing it in, I just kick it out.”

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