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Versatile Whaley closes out Flyers’ career with honors in three sports

St. Joseph’s Isaac Whaley was the point guard for four seasons and the team’s only senior. He was named to the Southeast Sports Writers’ All-District Div. IV third team. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

Four years and 12 sports ago, Isaac Whaley set forth on the St. Joseph Flyers’ athletic program with a new skill set, dedicated to the proposition that all players must work together and play their role.
And during his career at St. Joseph, Whaley played many roles and not just as a player but as a leader and role model. His hard work, dedication and versatility enabled him to realize a rare feat by earning all-district honors in three sports including an All-Ohio honorable mention selection in baseball.
“It was crazy. I didn’t know this year if I would get anything in basketball. I didn’t realize it until after it was all over that I got all three awards in all three sports and I thought that was pretty cool to be able to accomplish that after playing all three sports for all four years,” said Whaley who earned honors in soccer, basketball and baseball.
Besides leading the Flyers’ in scoring during the soccer season, Whaley averaged nearly 10 points a game while leading the team in assists and being the team’s best defender in basketball.
This past baseball season, he batted .451 with 10 doubles, two triple, 33 runs batted in, 36 runs scored and 24 stolen bases.
As the team’s top pitcher, he was 5-4 with a 2.07 earned run average in 54 innings with 68 strikeouts.
“Isaac was just a great competitor and leader. He was hard on himself because he wanted to win so much,” said Flyers’ baseball coach Greg Bryant.
“He didn’t have the players around him this year he’s had in the past because we were so young so he had to step up his game and he did. He was a great leader for the younger players. He showed them how to conduct yourself on and off the field and what it takes to win.”
Whaley admitted it was different this season, not only because he had to pitch more and played less shortstop, but he was the only senior with any playing experience.
“It was hard sometimes because it was hard to get everyone to do what you need to do. I was the only one they would listen to,” said Whaley. “But all those guys were like my brothers so it was easy to play with them and lead them in what we were doing.
“I kind of knew I’d get all the tough games. Last year I was second behind Clay (Willis) so I didn’t draw the as-tough game. I just pitched the games that were tough when Clay couldn’t pitch. It was kind of different on my arm. My arm felt a lot more sore because I pitched quite a lot more.”
Whaley admitted that basketball was probably his favorite sport and he was energized when St. Joseph opened its Parish Life Center that included a basketball court of regulation size compared to the school’s old gym.
“My freshman year we practiced at St. Joe sometimes and then we moved to the old Rock Hill school that’s now the detention center. We mostly practiced there through my junior year. Sometimes we practiced in the Ironton auxiliary gym whenever we had a game there,” said Whaley.
“I felt it was good because we shot on the same rims. Every game we used to play we felt like it was an away game for us, too. It was orange and black and it wasn’t like we were this year with our purple and gold.
“It was great having the PLC (Parish Life Center) this year, to be able to practice when we needed and get what needed to be done. I think basketball was my favorite through high school. Basketball was where we had the biggest crowds, especially my senior year when we got the new gym. It was just fun to play,”
Whaley was the only senior on the Flyers’ basketball team and coach Chris Barnes had nothing but praise for the senior point.
“I couldn’t have coached a better kid and leader. He will be missed. All the kids here are great to work with and he was the guy who showed them the right way to do things,” said Barnes.
Whaley has decided not to continue playing athletics at the college level but instead will engage in an even greater academic war as he prepares for a nursing career at Ohio University Southern.
But before Whaley trades his cleats for a stethoscope, he reflected on what it was like attending a small school and being part of a graduation class of just 18 members.
“It was just a great relationship with everybody. It was like we were a family out there. Everyone always had each other’s back. It was like the same people played all three sports so you always knew who was going to be on your team and what it brought,” said Whaley.
“And then the community was always going to be at your game no matter what was going on. It could be three hours away or five minutes and it didn’t really matter. Everyone would always be there.”
The idea of not playing any sports and concentrating his time on his academics has already forced Whaley to see what the transition is going to be like this fall.
“I feel like now this summer has already started and I don’t have to go play summer basketball or doing anything like that. I have a lot more free time I’ve never had before that I can do different stuff. I feel like it’s going to be weird in college because I’m just going to class and not have anything to do, just do homework and not do sports,” said Whaley.
But graduation won’t mean Whaley will sever his ties with the Flyers’ athletic program. He plans to come to practices and games and there is still a matter of his siblings, sister Bella and brothers Eli and Ian.
“Bella my sister and Eli my youngest brother are the ones who are really into sports more. I always play basketball with Eli out back. My other brother Ian isn’t into sports as much as we are. He does play basketball and soccer. It’s harder to get him outside to play basketball with me,” said Whaley.
Whatever role lies ahead for Isaac Whaley, he’ll play it well. In fact, if he’s called upon to do more than one thing, he should feel like he’s back with the Flyers.