Rankin Provides Fresh Help In Starting Role For East Girls

Updated: January 30, 2017

By: James Pence
Staff Reporter

Whitley Rankin may only be a freshman, but she is one of the biggest rising stars on the Columbus East girls’ basketball team. Early in the first two months of the season, she was splitting playing time between JV and varsity, but most of her playing time was in JV.
Once the calendar flipped to January, it was a whole different story.
Rankin saw her first significant playing time on varsity in the Olympians first game of 2017 against Connersville. Her impact in that game was noticeable to Columbus East coach Danny Brown. As a result, she saw her playing time increase and she got her first start January 12 against Greensburg and has become a full time varsity player and starter ever since.
“Coach just thought I could help the team out, so that’s when I started,” Rankin said. “My team has guided me along the way and it felt really good to be doing this as a freshman.”
Rankin credits her start for basketball at a very young age from her family. From watching her three older brothers Coleden, Landen, and Wade play in elementary school and middle school, she was hooked ever since. Rankin is only sibling to play basketball in high school. Both of her grandfathers played basketball growing up and she got her competitive itch from them.
“I hear stories from them all the time,” Rankin said. “It’s been quite entertaining, but they’ve helped me out a lot.”
Rankin’s emergence is similar to what the Olympians inherited two years ago when juniors Britney Ballard, Addy Galarno, and Kristen Lyons were playing full time varsity as freshmen.
“I came up in the starting lineup halfway through the season just like she is doing freshman year,” Galarno said. “She has filled some big shoes. She’s had a lot of pressure put on her, but she has done such a great job and we couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Rankin stated that she has learned a lot from her upperclassmen to become the player that she is today.
“They have helped me a lot along the way,” Rankin said. “They told me and given great advice for me and told their experiences being in this position. So I think that has helped me.”
In seven games since being inserted into the starting lineup, Rankin is averaging nearly 8 points per game and has hit 13 3-point baskets total.
“She is a knock down 3-point shooter that understands the game really well,” Brown said. “She plays great defensively and we’ve had her on the other team’s best player. She’s also scored against some very good teams. I expect her to be starting for us next year.”
Brown never questioned the disruption of the team chemistry with the decision.
“This was a natural fit and they know her and played with her for a long time,” Brown said. “They’re a couple of years of ahead of her, but they all know each other and it helps with the team chemistry.”
After finishing with another winning season at 13-11, the Olympians now turn to the Columbus North Sectional where they hope to avenge a 51-37 loss to Bloomington South at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Be sure to follow James Pence on Twitter @jpencesports

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