The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sports

January 19, 2010

Ready for rivalry

Whiteside has been season-long sensation for Marshall

Hassan Whiteside doesn’t need to be briefed by his teammates on the rivalry between Marshall and West Virginia.

He started hearing the trash talk long before he played his first game for the Thundering Herd.

Last June, Whiteside was among the top players in the Frankie Williams Charity Classic in Greenburgh, N.Y. Lance Stephenson, a true freshman at the University of Cincinnati and the Bearcats’ leading scorer, was also in the tournament.

Whiteside’s team won the tournament and he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. As he has done twice this season at Marshall, Whiteside posted a triple-double in one tournament game.

“I think I had 40 (points), 12 (rebounds) and 12 (blocked shots),” he recalled.

Whiteside impressed the crowd that included, ironically, WVU forward Kevin Jones. The Mountaineer sophomore is a native of Mount Vernon, N.Y.

“He saw me play and he asked me where I was going,” Whiteside said. “I told him Marshall and I think that floored him a little bit.”

Friendly banter started immediately, and now the two are enjoying successful years at their respective schools, which meet in the annual Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic Wednesday night in Charleston. Tip-off will be 9 p.m. and the game can be seen locally on WVNS-TV.

It will be Whiteside’s official introduction to the rivalry and gives him a chance to put his abilities on display. The 7-foot true freshman center has been a season-long sensation for the Herd, which is enjoying its best season since 1999-2000.

The Gastonia, N.C., native is averaging 12.5 points and 9.4 rebounds for Marshall (15-2), which received two votes in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. He also leads the nation in blocks per game, with 95 in 17 games for an average of 5.6. Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State has 96 in 18 games (5.3).

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