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Cam Whitmore's journey to NBA Summer League MVP has been remarkable

Cam Whitmore journey proves he can battle through anything and now he is ready to show the NBA that fight.

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Whitmore Highschool years

Cam Whitmore, born July 8th, 2004, is a 6'7” forward out of Odenton, Maryland. Cam played multiple sports heading into High School and had his first in-game dunk as an eighth grader. Whitmore attended Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland. His high school debut was delayed as his freshman season was put on hold after he suffered a broken tibia.

He played in an All-Star Game after recovering, but unfortunately, a minute into the game, he broke the same bone that kept him out his freshman year. The first doctor he visited said he would never play basketball again, but Cam didn't accept that answer as he got a second opinion and a path back to basketball.

Whitmore went through months of rehab again, but once he returned from injury, he showed everyone why he was so highly rated. His stock began to rise after playing well vs. Team Durant in the I-95 Coalition League, which had multiple mid-to-high-major prospects. During his high school career, Whitmore was a three-time All-Baltimore Catholic League First Team selection and the BCL player of the year in his final two seasons.

Whitmore finished his high school career averaging 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, a little over 2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. Coming off a tremendous four-year run in high school, Whitmore was a five-star recruit and a McDonald’s All-American selection. This was the first McDonald's All-American game in two years, as the previous year's event was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whitmore put on a show as he helped his team take home the victory. He scored 19 points to go along with 8 rebounds.

Whitmore participated in the Fiba 18U tournament for Team USA a couple of months later. He added to his trophy case as he led Team USA to a gold medal. Whitmore finished with 30 points in the gold medal game. Whitmore also finished the tournament averaging 18.7 points on 63 percent shooting and was named tournament MVP.

Whitmore’s time at Villanova

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament First Round - Villanova vs Georgetown Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With all his success, it was no surprise that major programs heavily recruited him. Teams like LSU, North Carolina, Illinois, Miami and UCLA pursued the 6'7” forward. Whitmore eventually chose the Villanova Wildcats. Like his freshman season in high school, however, Whitmore freshman year in college was delayed by an injury. Cam missed the first seven games of the season with a thumb injury making his debut on December 3, 2022, vs Oklahoma. Whitmore scored 7 points and had 3 steals and 3 rebounds as he was eased back into action.

Whitmore would have several good games in his freshman season, including 21 and 19-point performances immediately following his debut. The best game of his college career came against Xavier on January 7. Whitmore finished with 26 points on 11-18 from the field.

Whitmore worked his way back from the injury and averaged 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 26 games. Whitmore also shot 47.8 percent from the field and 34.3 from three-point range, which is a good sign that his shooting will translate to the NBA. Even though the team struggled overall and didn't make it to the NCAA tournament settling for the NIT, Cam was voted Big East Freshman of the Year. Part of the reason was the retirement of long-time head coach Jay Wright and the hiring of Kyle Neptune. The team never seemed to get on the same page, which slowed down players' progress like Whitmore.

NBA Draft

After the season, Whitmore declared for the 2023 draft. At the time, many people believed he would be a top-10 pick. At times before the draft, he had risen to the top five on some teams' draft boards. That prompted some people to believe the Rockets may even take him at number four. If you look at Whitmore's combined numbers, you would think his draft position was secure. But then we started getting "reports" from various sources that Whitmore wasn't interviewing well and his workouts didn't go well, and just like that, doubt started to creep into where Whitmore would be drafted.

Fast forward to draft night; some have Cam in the top five, and some have him dropping past the lottery. When we got to the Rockets pick at four, and they selected Amen Thompson, and then the Pistons selected his twin brother Ausar at five. This is where the Cam Whitmore watch started to happen.

Pick after pick went by without anyone taking Whitmore, and when it got past pick 15, it became a real possibility that the Rockets could have Whitmore fall to them without making any moves. With Whitmore falling to 20, the Rockets secured two prospects who were projected to go in the lottery without trading and assets. Of course, the news would come out later as to why Whitmore fell, mainly centering around "injury concerns" that were never expanded upon beyond the initial report.

Summer League

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

As Summer League kicked off in Vegas, most of the attention, especially in the first game, was on the Amen Thompson and Scoot Henderson matchup. The matchup didn't disappoint as Henderson came out on fire, making his first few shots, and Amen showed precisely why he went top four in the draft. Unfortunately, injuries would shorten both players' nights, and neither would play again in the Summer League. With Thompson out, Jabari Smith and Tari Eason took over for the next couple of games. Smith, especially as he not only hit a game-winner vs. the Blazers but also put up 30-plus points in both games.

Smith and Eason did not play beyond game two, leaving plenty of shots for Whitmore going forward. Whitmore took full advantage of being the main focus on offense scoring 16 points versus the Thunder, 26 points and a Summer League-tying 8 steals vs. the Warriors, and 25 points vs. the Utah Jazz in the Semi-Finals game to help the Rockets advance to the Finals versus the Cavaliers. Before the game, Whitmore was named Summer League MVP, becoming the first Rocket to win that award.

Even though the Rockets would fall the next night to the Cavs, Summer League was a great success for Whitmore after the draft night disappointment.

This upcoming season

For this upcoming season, the Rockets expect a turnaround after three of the worst seasons in the franchise's history. The Rockets have brought in veterans like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks to jumpstart the team's turnaround, and gone or the days of just being happy with progress.

That leads me to Whitmore. Even with the impressive Summer League, I think he starts off with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, as the Rockets still have a log jam at forward. You have Brooks, who will start at small forward; Kevin Porter Jr. may play some minutes at backup shooting guard and small forward. Jae'Sean Tate is still on the team and, from everything I heard, is well-liked by Coach Udoka and the front office.

That doesn't leave a lot of minutes for everyone else. Whitmore would be able to get 30-plus minutes a game with the Vipers, who play a similar style to the Rockets. Playing is Whitmore's most important factor, not sitting on the bench right now. It's not a guarantee, though, as we saw Alperen Sengun force the Rockets’ hand in his rookie season by playing so well in training camp and preseason that they had to give him playing time. Maybe that happens with Whitmore.

However the beginning of the season works out, Whitmore will be part of the Rockets’ future, as he has already shown that he is a fighter and will battle through any adversity no matter what roadblock is put in front of him.

If you want to check out my video biography on Cam Whitmore, watch it on Rocket Fuel Podcast's YouTube page and subscribe!