Supreme scorer: Whittell’s Chaplin tops 1,000 career points
During the course of his time at Whittell, Palmer Chaplin has turned himself into a prolific scorer through dedication to the sport he loves — and has reached a milestone to reflect that. The Warriors’ junior point guard has eclipsed the 1,000-point mark, an accolade that represents a stellar yet still evolving basketball career.
“It’s a benchmark for how much work we’re putting in as a team and how much time I’m spending in the gym getting shots up,” Chaplin said.
Chaplin achieved the plateau with a 22-point performance in Whittell’s 81-51 win against Excel Christian on Jan. 10. The 6-foot-1-inch guard has scored 399 points in 18 games this season, raising his career mark to 1,142 over three seasons.
“It means a lot, but there are bigger things out there — I’m not just looking for the personal accomplishments,” Chaplin said. “We’ve still got a league, zone and state title to win this year — and then we have next season.”
In addition to his scoring, the junior guard is averaging more than eight assists per game this season. When thinking about the points-based accomplishment, he is also quick to get his teammates involved.
“My teammates come to mind — a lot of my points come from them,” Chaplin said. “It’s them getting me open in the spots I like to shoot from — the corners, the top, threes — and giving me passes where I can finish.”
Chaplin began his career at Whittell as a highly regarded incoming freshman — but his success didn’t come right away. Warriors head coach Phil Bryant put Chaplin on the junior varsity team for the first game of the 2012-13 season, instantly instilling in the then wiry, 5-foot-10-inch player the significance of working hard.
“I wanted him to get the message that it doesn’t just happen — you earn it,” Bryant said. “He went out in the first game, did what we wanted him to do and proved he could handle it — I wanted to see how he would respond to that mentally.”
Chaplin was on varsity for the next game — and moved to starting point guard a few games later. As a freshman, he averaged 8.1 points per game while learning behind senior guards Garrett Bronken and Austin Neal.
“When I first came into the school, I wanted to be a really great player — coach Bryant came along and changed my mentality to having a great team and leaving a legacy as a group,” Chaplin said.
Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Chaplin dedicated himself in the weight room and on the court to become a dynamic scorer on the varsity level. That’s when he began putting up 300 shots a day following the routine of his basketball idol, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
“I expected it after he spent that much time in the gym — he’s calling and texting me at midnight seeing if I could come in the next morning,” coach Bryant said. “That makes you a better player.”
Hundreds of shots day in and day out translated to a breakout 2013-14 season for Chaplin. As a sophomore, he averaged 20.3 points, 5.1 assists and 3.8 steals per game while running the point for Whittell’s Div. IV state championship team.
“Everything we do goes through our point guard — our entire system, our offensive system, our transition system,” said Bryant, who took over the Warriors’ program during Chaplin’s first season. “If we don’t have a good point guard, it doesn’t work.”
After his sophomore campaign, Chaplin continued to evolve his game. He added a new wrinkle to his scoring repertoire — a transition pull-up jumper — while working to improve his decision making on the floor.
“Decisions are the big difference maker as a point guard, and he has learned to make better decisions — that’s been a big factor in him getting better,” Bryant said. “I think he’s the best point guard around — he can score, he can pass, he can defend, he makes good decisions on the floor, he’s competitive and a little cocky.”
This season, Chaplin has received extra attention from opponents in the form of face guarding, double teams and box-and-one defenses designed to stop him. Against Incline earlier in the season, three defenders guarded him at times.
“He’s tenacious about it — he won’t accept the fact that somebody on the court is going to hold him down from doing whatever he has to do to make his team win,” Bryant said. “When you have that mental attitude about it, you’re tough to stop.”
The extra focus from opposing defenses hasn’t stopped Chaplin from raising his scoring average from a season ago. Of his offensive arsenal that includes quickness, a good handle, finishing ability at the rim and a devastating long-distance jump shot, he couldn’t pick a favorite.
“Players have to play off me because they know I can pass it, but they have to stay tight because they know I’ll shoot — I like being unpredictable and taking whatever the defense gives me,” Chaplin said.
In addition to his teammates, Chaplin credits a majority of his success on the hardwood to the leadership of Bryant. That guidance also extends outside the gym.
“There’s never been anybody in my life that has taught me as much about basketball and as much about life as him,” Chaplin said. “Making me a scorer and helping me reach 1,000 points is huge, but making me into a person that is going to be good at life, successful and happy is way bigger.”
In terms of scoring, Chaplin has his sights set on breaking the Whittell school mark — a record he is on track to shatter next season. But he would ultimately be happier to leave that accolade behind if it meant hoisting a state championship trophy at the end of both his junior and senior campaigns.
“It marks progress and is a testament to how much work I’m putting in — but it’s not my primary goal,” Chaplin said. “My primary goal is winning state.”
After Whittell, Chaplin aims to play basketball at the collegiate level — a goal made more reachable with his current 4.0 grade point average.
“He’s going to evolve and he’s going to get better — he’ll be better in a week than he is today and he’ll be much better in a year than he is today,” Bryant said. “His best basketball is still way ahead of him.”
Along with many more points, and even more shots.
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