Delano Whitfield transferred to North Brunswick Township High School in the fall of 2017. He had been a student at the Peddie School.
He was a junior boys’ basketball player looking for a fresh start. But by the time basketball season began in December, Whitfield had to sit for the first 30 days, an NJSIAA rule that regards to transfers.
The rule, though, didn’t stop Whitfield from working hard. After practice each day, he walked over to North Brunswick’s auxiliary gym and took extra shots for 45-60 minutes.
When he made his debut on Jan. 16, 2018, Whitfield was ready. He scored 14.2 points per game over the last month of the season.
Then, as a senior, he became the Raiders’ best player. Whitfield is averaging 18.4 points per game this winter. He can bury outside shots and finish drives.
He also has that rare combination of high volume and efficiency, shooting 80 percent from the foul line.
“He has become a complete guard,” said North Brunswick coach Ed Breheney.
Whitfield has always been a hard worker. His father, Derek Whitfield, started playing basketball with Delano when the son was a young boy.
At nights, the two would sneak into gyms at Rutgers University. In the mornings, they would play for hours before Delano left for school. The hard work turned Delano into a dynamic guard.
But it didn’t lead to success at Whitfield’s first high school, the Peddie School. As a freshman and sophomore at the prep school in Hightstown, Whitfield was in and out of the rotation.
The situation prompted his transfer to North Brunswick. Once Whitfield started playing for the Raiders, he found a more stable situation.
“Coach Breheney gave me a spark,” Whitfield said. “I wasn’t looking over my shoulder and saying, ‘Am I coming out?'”
With his newfound peace of mind, Whitfield became the alpha scorer that he always knew he could be. But he grew into something else, too: a leader.
Breheney’s team is filled with young, inexperienced players, and the Raiders have struggled to a 6-16 record this year. But Whitfield’s energy and enthusiasm have never waned. The senior is showing his younger teammates how to build a winning program.
“I’m enjoying it a lot,” Whitfield said. “I love this group.”
But on Feb. 13 at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, Whitfield had to show his little brothers some tough love. In the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament’s preliminary round, the Raiders trailed by 14 at halftime.
When Breheney and his coaches walked into the locker room, Whitfield was already firing up his teammates, and himself.
“We beat this team before and I know we can again! We have to fight!” Whitfield shouted.
His teammates responded.
North Brunswick dropped in 56 points in the second half and rolled to a 20-point victory, 74-54. Whitfield scored 18 but he wasn’t even the Raiders’ leading scorer. Sophomore Jabri Fitzpatrick poured in 24 points.
“We found that heart,” Whitfield said.
“I haven’t seen too many halves like that,” Breheney said. “Things came together.”
North Brunswick did, however, fall to top-seeded Old Bridge High School, 69-42, in the GMC first round on Feb. 15. But Whitfield and his teammates laid a foundation for next winter.
With a year of varsity experience behind them, the Raiders should improve. And after a breakout senior season, Whitfield should get a chance to play collegiate basketball.
He visited Division 2 Saint Thomas Aquinas College, in Sparkill, N.Y., recently. The senior also has offers from other Division 2 and 3 programs.
But he is not giving up on his dream.
“The goal is still D1,” Whitfield said. “I’m just going to keep pushing for that scholarship.”