By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Jimmy Whitehead was looking for a larger role in the Minnesota State men’s basketball program, and now he’s looking for a place to play his final season.
On Monday, Whitehead told coach Matt Margenthaler that he will transfer for his final season of eligibility, though he hasn’t decided where he’ll end up. Given that he’s already used his redshirt season, he will likely have to go to a Division III or NAIA program.
“The program is going in a direction where I felt I didn’t fit in,” Whitehead said. “I thought the best decision was to leave.”
Whitehead, a 6-foot-1 guard from La Crosse, Wis., redshirted as a freshman, then played sparingly on the team that reached the national semifinals in 2011. As a sophomore, on a depleted roster, he started 25 of 26 games, averaging 11.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists.
Last season, Whitehead started the first two games before suffering a back injury, which forced him to miss two games. He played as a reserve the rest of the season, averaging 7.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 21.4 minutes. He shot 52.2 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from 3-point range and 79.5 percent on free throws, as the Mavericks tied a program record with 28 victories and a trip to the region finals.
Margenthaler said he was surprised by Whitehead’s decision.
“I wish Jimmy nothing but the best and hopes he finds happiness wherever he ends up,” Margenthaler said.
The Mavericks are losing only one senior from last season’s team, and sophomore T.J. Okafor and freshmen Mike Busack and Grant Pope all redshirted. T.J. Lake, a point guard from Dubuque, Iowa, has made a verbal commitment and is expected to sign later this month.
Margenthaler said that he hopes to add at least one more player to the program this spring, possibly a transfer.
Whitehead said that he hopes to make a decision soon as to where he will play next season.
“I’m not disappointed or mad at anybody,” Whitehead said. “We had a helluva season that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The coaches have to do what they have to do to have a winning program, and I need to do what I need to do.”