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Ingrained in the Game
The Whitings continue to push each other to glory, with Amari and Amber leading Burley to another postseason
Published: 2/1/2021 3:27:49 PM
 


From the Adriatic Coast to East Idaho, the Whitings seem to always dominate whichever court they take. 

The family of four, which now resides in Burley, has never not revolved around the world of basketball, with now two generations of ballers taking the Gem State by storm. 

Trent and Amber Whiting, who have both served as head coaches for the Burley boys and girls basketball programs, originally met while competing at the collegiate level in Utah. Now, their own two kids have taken on the family business, with son Jace set to compete for Boise State in 2022 and Amari leading the Burley Bobcats to possibly another state tournament appearance. 

“I don’t think basketball ever hasn’t played a part in our family dynamic,” Trent said. “It’s just who we are. It’s ingrained in our lives.”

Trent got his start as a Kuna Kaveman, back when the school competed at the A2 level. And while Trent himself wanted to compete for the Broncos in college, a better opportunity presented itself at Snow College in Utah. 

While competing for the Badgers, Trent met his eventual wife Amber. After a few years at Snow, Trent eventually moved on to the University of Utah before landing at BYU to finish out his collegiate career. 

Not long before graduation, Trent and Amber began expecting the birth of their son, Jace. And in a stroke of good fortune, professional basketball called just as the Whiting family started to expand. The call to compete in the Italian basketball league couldn’t have come at a better time, Trent said.

“It was a relief. Back then, we were struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “Then, your wife gets pregnant and you’ve got no job, I was excited to actually start making some money.”

Trent competed in various leagues for teams all across the country, usually operating on year-to-year contracts for the better part of 12 seasons. When it was time for Jace, and eventually Amari, to be born, the pair flew home to Idaho so their children could eventually return to the states as American citizens.

But while growing up in Italy, Jace and Amari quickly latched on to their mother and father’s passion. Both parents said they were hesitant at first to buy into the sport fully as a family. But Amber said once she saw how quickly her children fell in love with the sport, they couldn’t deny them the opportunity to try it out. 

 

“You just can’t take that away from kids. It can’t be generated by a parent,” Amber said. “But for us, they just fell in love with it, and you can’t not let them love it just because you love it.” 

When it came to Jace’s development as a player, Trent said the young baller picked up plenty from his two-a-day practices in the Italian league. From dawn till dusk, Jace was there, constantly absorbing and learning the game from his father and his teammates. Trent, a stickler for fundamentals, said he always took the opportunity to ensure Jace, and eventually Amari, learned the game the right way. 

“Jace came to the conclusion of playing basketball on his own. He loved being a part of that atmosphere at practice. He grabbed onto it and fell in love with the game,” Trent said. “There wasn’t much I could do about it after that.”

For Trent, competing in Italy came with its own set of challenges. Besides Europe’s strict dedication to skill training, Jace said he competed with kids two years older than him.

“My parents said that I had to always be bouncing a ball, and that I was always playing on my Little Tikes hoop,” Jace said. “My hands always feel better when they're holding a basketball. And I love the way it sounds when being pounded on the hardwood or the sound it makes when it rips through a net. There's a quote from Glory Road where Bobby Joe Hill says, ‘Do you understand what that's like, having that ball in your hand? It's like making sweet music with your game.’ And that perfectly describes how I feel about basketball, it's sweet music, and I could put that song on replay and listen to it all day.”

Once Amari’s time to take the court came around, Trent said the decision came in a much more roundabout way. Both of his kids played multiple sports in school, but Amari gravitated toward dance, and said she seriously considered moving on from basketball. But eventually, the now sophomore at Burley followed in her older brother’s footsteps, becoming a young phenom for the Bobcats.

The pair of young Whitings quickly left their mark on the program in a short six combined seasons. Jace, currently serving an LDS mission, finished his senior season averaging 24.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game, capping off his career as the Bobcats’ all-time leading scorer. Amari, now in year two, averages 26.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, four steals and three assists per game as the regular season draws to a close. 

Amari accredited her physical play style to her early days playing in Europe, where a lack of girls-only leagues meant she played against boys sometimes years older than her. 

“Me being so young, I was never phased,” Amari said. “I just thought it was fun. If they’re going to be physical, I’m going to be physical right back.”

While Trent described Jace as a “Cadillac on the court,” with his smooth transitions and cool head when searching for an open shot, Amari took more from her mother’s fierce defensive style. 

“She’s like a freight train,” Trent said. “She’s going 100 miles per hour and she’s going to outrun you the whole game.”

The freight train has been running on time for most of the 2021 season, as Burley has cruised to a 15-5 record, going 10-0 in the 4A Great Basin 7 Conference heading into the district tournament. 

But Amari won’t be the only Whiting on the court in this year’s postseason. Amber currently coaches the Lady Bobcats, rounding out the family business of basketball after Trent served as the boys coach during Jace’s high school days. The pair said it was never in the cards to be their kids’ coaches. But when opportunity rings, the Whitings rarely ignore the call.

“After looking at all the experiences we’ve shared, all the highs and lows, it’s been very rewarding to be coaching your own kid,” Amber said.

Parents-turned-coaches are nothing new to high school sports. But according to Trent, some may discount the emotional toll it can have on a family dynamic. The game never leaves the house, he said, which can make the coach-parent balance a challenge at times. 

“The relationship is always stressed. Jace and Trent had their battles,” Amber said. “When he was the coach of the boys and I was the coach of the girls, my kids didn’t have any parents during basketball season.”

Now with Trent off the court working full time at Redox, Amber said some of that stress has been lifted. Trent gets to be the parent, while she gets to be the coach. 

As for Amari, having basketball permeate the house can be difficult, especially after a tough loss. 

“When we come home after a bad game, you don’t want to be at my house,” Amari said. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know they do it because they care. And when I do succeed, it’s that much sweeter knowing we worked for it together.”

When the mother-daughter combination works, Amber said it can be a special thing to witness. The pair are perfectly in sync, with Amari anticipating each of her mom’s moves, acting as an extension of the coach on the floor. 

“She already knows what I want and how I want it,” Amber said.

Whatever February’s tournament may bring, Amari said basketball will continue to be the family’s tentpole, the glue that brings the four together during unprecedented times. When COVID-19 struck Idaho, Trent said they decided to make weekly H-O-R-S-E competitions a family tradition.

During those moments, with each member of the family trying to outplay the other, Jace said he realized just how talented his sister can be.

“I'll be the first one to admit that she's the better basketball player,” he said. “Amari is a generational talent, she'll change the game of women's basketball, just watch.”

 

 


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