As soon as she joined the Hartland High School women’s varsity basketball team, Whitney Sollom transformed a good team into a great one.
But that’s not what sold coach Don Palmer on Sollom.
After an excellent freshman season in 2017, Sollom — the nation’s 23rd-ranked forward according to ESPN — earned first team all-league honors. A few seniors on the team earned the same award, but one senior was on the second team. Palmer asked Sollom if she would step aside and give up her first team spot for the senior.
Sollom gladly took the second team spot.
At 6-foot-3, Sollom’s height is striking, but what really sets her apart is her extreme athleticism. She has no trouble with her coordination, is a strong runner and has good lateral quickness.
Her size and athleticism translate well on the defensive end. Hartland schemed its defense around Sollom’s ability to pick up players pressuring the paint after getting past the initial defender. Her quickness allows her to shift over and step off her mark to attack the player with the ball. This inside pressure forces teams to take lower percentage outside shots. Sollom recorded over 100 blocks in her high school career, but more importantly, she was able to alter shots.
Palmer believes her offensive game will develop with time at Michigan. Sollom is an unselfish player and would rather let her teammates take open shots than pad her own stats.
“She was not the type of kid that if she had a game where she only scored four or five points because the opportunities for her weren’t there (that she would get upset),” Palmer said. “She was all about winning. She’s a well adjusted kid and team-oriented which in this day and age you don’t see a lot of them.”
Despite playing mostly inside in high school because of her height, Sollom is most suited to play the stretch four at Michigan, due to her ability to catch and shoot. She is working on becoming more effective at creating shots off the dribble.
It’s unclear this early where exactly Sollom will fit into the Wolverines’ offense, but Palmer expects the team to utilize her in the post occasionally as well as letting her shoot the three. Her perimeter game stands to get a big boost as she gets more practice and playing time in her freshman year. The Wolverines struggled with their 3-point shooting last season, shooting 32 percent, so Sollom’s shooting could help in that regard.
And while her athletic ability is what makes her stand out on the court, she is just as effective off it.
“Whitney was always here to prop (the underclassmen) up,” Palmer said. “(She would say) ‘We’re going to be OK, you’re going to have bad games, but let’s go on to the next game.’ I really think she’s a special kid in regards to caring about others. She’s competitive and wants to win, but she knows she can’t do it by herself. That’s the exception rather than the rule.”
At Michigan, she’ll assume a different role, as a freshman on a team with three seniors. But immediately, she’ll have the inherent power that comes with immediate playing time.
Forward Kayla Robbins — who graduated last year — left a big hole in the roster when she tore her ACL in the middle of the season. Although the team played well without her, there was no one to fill her role. Sollom will look to fill her shoes in a big way and Palmer believes she has the skills to do just that.
“She is about winning,” Palmer said. “She’s a team player and she’s a person who cares about others. That’s the whole package.”