Traveling man

Shayne Whittington is determined to always relish his role on the Indiana Pacers, no matter how much driving is involved.

The 6-foot-11, 245-pound forward/center has spent much of the 2015-16 season assigned to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers’ Developmental League affiliate.

Whittington has played in only five of Indiana’s 76 games so far this season, scoring a total of 13 points.

As a Mad Ant, Whittington took part in 40 games with 37 starts, averaging 12.1 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds while working on skills that could eventually earn him a permanent place on an NBA roster.

On Friday, the Mad Ants’ season came to a close. Fort Wayne defeated Erie, 117-101, yet finished in the basement of the D-League’s Central Division at 20-30.

Whittington is supposed to be back on the Pacers’ bench Wednesday night when they host Cleveland.

Fort Wayne’s finale concludes what’s been a back-and-forth season for Whittington. In one three-month span (Nov. 2 to Feb. 2), he had been assigned to the Mad Ants five times and recalled by the Pacers on five occasions.

“I know I’ve made a lot of drives to and from Indianapolis, but it’s not something I’m going to complain about,” Whittington said. “This is my job.

“Every person in the NBA thinks in their own mind they’re good enough to be a superstar, but in my head I know I have things to work on.”

One impressive aspect of Whittington’s skillset is his free throw accuracy for a big man. For the Mad Ants this season he converted 84 of 103 attempts (.816).

For sake of comparison, the core of the Pacers’ interior players — Ian Mahinmi (.585), Lavoy Allen (.612), Myles Turner (.722) and Jordan Hill (.712) — are far less efficient at the foul line.

A perimeter scoring threat, Whittington made 52 3-pointers for Fort Wayne this season.

Only three Mad Ants teammates made more.

Undrafted out of Western Michigan University in 2014, Whittington signed with Indiana on July 2 of that year, one week after the NBA Draft.

While with the Mad Ants, he lived alone in an apartment in Fort Wayne. His fiancée, Danielle, who is due to deliver the couple’s first child — a girl — in July, works and resides in Indianapolis.

It’s not the dream scenario for a professional athlete, but Whittington makes it work.

He said his Pacers teammates and others in the organization continue to encourage him to keep working hard in practices.

“Every player. Every front office person. They know it’s not an ideal situation but have been great to me. Solomon Hill has been big. Lavoy Allen, C.J. (Miles), George (Hill), (Rodney) Stuckey,” Whittington said. “Paul (George) has said it to me a few times, too.”

Whittington isn’t going at it alone.

Mad Ants/Pacers teammate Rakeem Christmas, a 6-9 rookie forward, also is used to both cities, franchises, locker rooms and groups of teammates.

Christmas played 48 games for the Mad Ants this season, averaging 13.9 points and 7 boards. He has yet to play in a game for the Pacers.

Shayne Whittington pullout

THE WHITTINGTON FILE

Name: Shayne Whittington

Age: 25

Born: Paw Paw, Michigan

High school: Lawrence (Michigan) H.S. – 2009

College: Western Michigan University – 2014

First NBA points: in 97-90 loss to Washington on Nov. 8, 2014

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.