Life on the hardwood has gotten a bit more complicated for Mercy Academy’s Whitney Hartlage.
An up-and-coming star the past two seasons, the 5-foot-8 senior is now widely recognized as one of the state’s purest long-range shooters.
And defenses have responded accordingly.
“She sees everything. Everybody shades her or chases her,” said Jaguars coach Mark Evans, a 16-year veteran. “That’s hard when you’re used to getting the ball and getting looks.”
Despite the added attention, Hartlage has knocked down 31.3 percent of her 3-point attempts (27 of 86) and is averaging 16.9 points per game, up 2.9 from last season.
Mercy, ranked No. 5 in the Lexington Herald-Leader’s preseason poll of coaches, won seven of their first eight games before heading to last week’s Queen of the Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.
Hartlage, a 4.0 student and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga signee, took a break from holiday festivities to answer questions about the challenges of sharpshooting.
CHRIS CAHILL: How difficult has it been to get open looks this season now that you are a well-established threat?
WHITNEY HARTLAGE: (Teams are) definitely aware that I can shoot the ball so they shade me and some games I’ll get a diamond-and-one on me and they’ll chase me. It’s definitely frustrating. Whenever they do that I need to focus on defense more. If I play good defense then I’ll get steals and shots off of that.
Our point guard (Kayla Richardson) is good at drawing the defense in and kicking it out.
CAHILL: How much extra time do you spend honing your shot?
HARTLAGE: Usually, I come in 30 minutes before practice and shoot every day. If my shot’s off – or even when it’s on – I’ll bring Coach Evans in or (assistant coach) Keith (Baisch) and they’ll work with me. We’ve been working off screens and expanding my range.
CAHILL: Tell me about your family.
HARTLAGE: My dad (Jerome) owns a machine company and my mom (Beth) is the secretary there. My sister (Taylor) graduated from Assumption. She’s a sophomore at Western Kentucky. I have a little brother (Jackson) and he goes to St. Nicholas. He’s 13 and in the seventh grade. He plays basketball too.
CAHILL: You chose between Lipscomb University and Chattanooga. What made you go with the Lady Mocs?
HARTLAGE: I loved their team and I like the coaching staff. Their campus and gym are really nice and they’re a very high-level, competitive program. It’ll probably take a year or two (for me to make an impact), but they’re losing one of their top shooters. There’s always room where I could come in, but I’ll have to work for it.
CAHILL: What’s next for you and your team?
HARTLAGE: We call January “The Month” because we play so many tough teams. We have Marion County (Jan. 19), Manual (Jan. 15), Assumption (Jan. 13), Butler (Jan. 18) and then we play two out-of-town teams. One of them is ranked top-5 in the nation (Science Hill of Tenn., Jan. 25) and the other one is the top team from Missouri (Incarnate Word Academy of St. Louis, Jan. 26). And the LIT is in there, so it’s kind of a challenging month.
*Jason Hiser, who guided Pleasure Ridge Park to a school-best 14-1 record and a runner-up finish in Class 6-A, has been named Kentucky Football Coach of the Year by the Associated Press.
*Trinity’s James Quick has been named AP Kentucky Mr. Football. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound wide receiver finished his career with a state-record 280 receptions and ranks third all-time in receiving yards (4,434) and receiving touchdowns (57).
Quick, who was an electric playmaker for the three-time defending state champion Rocks, plans to announce his college intention (Louisville or Ohio State) on Jan. 5 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
*Emerson Walsh, a senior at Trinity, has committed to play tennis at Johns Hopkins University. The Blue Jays are currently ranked No. 7 nationally in Division III.
Walsh and partner Randi Strause advanced to the 2012 state doubles final before falling to Collier Bouchillon and Matt Browne of KCD.
*Butler’s Tre’tez Kinnaird, one of the nation’s top middle-distance runners, has committed to Indiana University.
Kinnaird has won two consecutive state titles in the 800 and is the current record holder in the event (1:49.96). He chose the Hoosiers over Louisville and Oklahoma.
After clocking a personal record of 1:49.31 at the Music City Distance Carnival in June, the senior will return this season as the fastest 800 runner in the country.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.