Cam Whitmore Eyeing Rookie of the Year Award

July 24, 2023

Athlete Studio

After winning Summer League MVP honors in Las Vegas, Houston Rockets' rookie Cam Whitmore now has his eyes set on Rookie of the Year.

Whitmore told reporters after being drafted by the Rockets in the 2023 draft, "Every time it kept counting down, [I] just didn't know where to go," Whitmore told ESPN's Malika Andrews. "I was praying. I was really talking to God the whole entire time, for real."

Whitmore was initially supposed to be a lottery pick. Instead, his draft stock fell to the back half of the first round for "medical reasons" that not even he could explain. However, falling as far as he did only paired him with the team that considered taking him with the No. 4 pick and ended up being a win for both him and Houston.

After seeing Cam drop back a little bit, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said, "We were actually really active in this draft, but it didn't result in anything [because] we wanted him and we got him."

Maybe Whitmore was destined to be a Houston Rocket. Maybe his basketball journey would have led him to Houston one way or another, and his draft placement only hastened that process. Regardless, this was exactly what Houston was looking for out of the draft and will give Whitmore a great opportunity to showcase his skills and reach his potential.

“I’ve been overlooked a lot of times in my life, so it didn’t really faze me," Whitmore said. "I’m just really happy to be in the NBA. I dreamed about that my whole life. [June 22] was the best day of my life, so this is really the start.”

Whitmore wasn't supposed to be the No. 20 pick, but he also wasn't supposed to be the all-around Summer League MVP. Exceeding expectations and quickly rising to the top of his class, Whitmore is projected to be a standout rookie in the coming season. 

Now, his sights are set even higher ahead of his first season in the league; Whitmore wants to be Rookie of the Year. And regardless of what was "supposed to happen," he's ready to work and is determined to get there.

"It's just something where I've got to ... go into the next day [with] a new mind," Whitmore said. "I know I'm different than everybody else, [so] it's time to get to work... I'm ready to be a Rocket."

The underdog narrative surrounding Whitmore has quickly dissipated, though initially taking flight on the night of the draft, since his time in the Summer League, Whitmore has shown the league what he's really capable of. Despite the automatic underdog label attached to his basketball career due to his draft placement, Cam refuses to perceive himself that way and it seems that the rest of the league no longer sees him that way either.

Throughout the five Summer League games, Whitmore showcased his explosive scoring ability. He effortlessly attacked the rim, leaving defenders in awe of his hops. Additionally, his sharpshooting from beyond the arc was on full display in Las Vegas.

The highlight of his Summer League performance came during the Rockets' face-off against the Warriors just before the Semifinals. Despite Golden State's slump, Whitmore and his teammates dominated the court, sinking an impressive 20 3-pointers and securing a resounding 17-point victory.

During that game, Whitmore showcased his exceptional skills, leading all scorers with an impressive 26 points, including three 3-pointers that played a pivotal role in Houston's victory over the Warriors. Notably, his contributions were not limited to offense alone, as he also was a defensive weapon, collecting an impressive eight steals, further enhancing his stellar performance.

Although the stats officially belong to Houston's designated Summer League coach, Ben Sullivan, it is Ime Udoka who will be overseeing Whitmore's growth and development throughout the season. As the man behind the clipboard, Udoka will be guiding the team's young players.

The budding relationship between Whitmore and Udoka already seems promising in H-Town. The rookie shared his positive experience, expressing that whenever he steps onto the court, Udoka encourages him to play his game, be true to himself, and let his skills shine.

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