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Abraham Lincoln’s Whitehead named McDonald’s All-American

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Abraham Lincoln’s Isaiah Whitehead received some of the best news of his life just days after getting some of the worst.

Whitehead fulfilled his dream of being named a McDonald’s All-American late Wednesday. It came two days after Lincoln assistant coach Jermaine Brown was hospitalized with a brain aneurysm.

Brown, who passed away over the weekend, had coached Whitehead since middle school, and had been on the bench with him at every step of his career. Whitehead skipped practice to visit him at the hospital on Tuesday and knows how proud Brown would have been.

“For him to be able to see this would have been amazing,” he said.

Railspitters coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton called Whitehead’s selection a bright spot during a difficult time for the team.

“This is a little smile for everybody right now, but it’s been a tough week,” Morton said.

The Seton Hall-bound Whitehead watched the McDonald’s selection show with his family at his Coney Island home. He got nervous that one of his biggest goals would elude him when two other shooting guards were selected before him. Then euphoria hit when his name was called to play in the game that will be broadcast live on ESPN from Chicago’s United Center on April 2.

“It was a great feeling, dream come true,” Whitehead said. “Starting my high school career, this was my main goal. It just came true. It just came true.”

He is the fourth Lincoln player to be selected to play in the game, following in the footsteps of current and former NBA players Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson. The 6-foot-5 Whitehead, ranked among the top 20 players in the nation, also became the first New York City player picked to the McDonald’s game since Bishop Loughlin’s JayVaughn Pinkston in 2010. Nazareth guard Bianca Cuevas and Brooklyn-native Sierra Calhoun of Christ the King will compete in the girls game.

It hasn’t been an easy road to this point for Whitehead. He came to Lincoln with the hype of being the next great Railsplitters player from Coney Island but it took until his junior year for him to really blossom.

Whitehead led Lincoln to its first Public School Athletic League title since 2009 last season and ripped up the travel ball circuit to put his name amongst the nation’s top players. The summer culminated with being selected the most valuable player of the Elite 24 all-star game.

“He had to put in a lot of grind for this.” Morton said. “He had a lot of people second-guessing him.”

The critics fueled Whitehead to take his game to another level and show people New York City is still home to elite talent.

“I just kind of took that to heart this summer and just pumped up my level of play to the max and just tried to bring my city back to the top where it use to be,” Whitehead said.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
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