*From the spotlight to the fluorescent light
April 9, 2008, 5:00 am·
This was where David Whitehurst was meant to be.
The former Penn basketball player, who has not played in two years due to academic ineligibility, was a starter on an NCAA Tournament team, scored 15 points on national television against Duke in 2005 and was the Quakers' best athlete.
But it is here, roaming the courts at Gimble Gym at the Pottruck Center, where Whitehurst feels most at home.
"I've discovered my true passion - dunking on frat dudes, little Asians and old men," he said.
On this particular day, this is exactly what the 6-foot-3 swingman did.
In six games - all victories - Whitehurst scored 43 points, and got back on defense only twice. And if that wasn't enough, he injured a 49-year-old man and made three Korean undergraduates cry.
"Living the dream," Whitehurst said.
While the Quakers would love to have Whitehurst back, most of his former teammates are supportive of his passion for recreational basketball.
"I'm playing in Europe for a paycheck, and David's hustling people at Pottruck for $20 a game," said former star Ibby Jaaber, who plays for Lottomatica Roma in Italy. "When you think about it, is there really any difference?
"Oh, right," he added after taking a moment to think about it. "There is."
Penn coach Glen Miller never had Whitehurst on his team, but he has been in contact with the ex-Quaker since he came from Brown two years ago.
And the former cab driver would love nothing more than to recruit some more fucking athletes into this program.
"Just one athlete, is that too much to ask for?" Miller said. "One goddamn kid who can touch the rim - that's all I've ever wanted."
But Whitehurst, who was named MVP of his Phi Delta Brah fraternity league team, thinks his ceiling at Pottruck is even higher than the hallowed rafters of the Palestra.
"You play for four years in college, end up with a world-class education and then where are you?" Whitehurst said. "You maybe latch onto a team in Europe play for a few years, make a few hundred G's, and then what? I don't see the upside."
He added that playing at Pottruck helps his self-esteem and keeps him in shape "as long as I run on the elliptical for a little while afterwards."
But Pottruck devotees are afforded little luxury in the way of an offseason.
The gymnasium is open year round, and its more committed players rarely have time off from basketball.
"It never ends," Whitehurst said. "I get home from the gym and I'm on the XBox playing three, four, sometimes five hours of NCAA 2K8 per night. I love it, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't tough."
But at the end of the day, when he wipes the sweat from his brow and watches his ex-teammates walk home from practice tired and exhausted, the Penn basketball ex-pat knows he made the right decision.
"You know, that high-pressure Division-I ball wasn't for me," he said. "Running sets and playing defense? Fuck that shit, I'm tryin' to dominate, son."