Hassan Whiteside’s ascension can be accredited to maturity

Not long ago, Hassan Whiteside was nothing more than a big man trying to make his dream come true. In his short time in the NBA, however, he has shown to be a star.

By the turn of the calendar, coming from an old 2014 to a new 2015, Hassan Whiteside was nothing more than a plug-in big man for the Miami Heat. In nine games in December, Whiteside had totaled 26 points, 35 rebounds, and four blocks in 82 minutes. There wasn’t much of an opportunity for Whiteside in December, but still, he was just a big body to take minutes at center.

After recording 14 points, six rebounds, and two blocks in just his second 20-minute outing with the Heat, Whiteside hasn’t looked back since.

Whiteside has truly taken the somewhat annoying “new year, new me” saying that could be seen all over Twitter and Instagram around the turn to 2015 to an unseen level. Whiteside only posted less than 10 points in one of 10 January games, that included six double-doubles and one triple-double.

While Whiteside’s rise to stardom has seemed sudden, there has been a lot of behind the scenes work, if you will, to get to this point.

Since 2010, Whiteside has been with 11 teams. After being drafted by the Kings in 2010 and playing with them in 2012, Whiteside played with three different D-League teams before taking his talents overseas to Lebanon in 2013. Then, China, Lebanon again, and by 2014, made a second trip to China before returning to the D-League once more. Then, after two short stints with the Grizzlies, and another D-League trip, Whiteside finally landed a job with the Heat.

Miami assigned him to Sioux Falls in mid-December for what will surely be his last D-League experience, and rejoined the Heat just two days later.

So now you should be up to date. NBA players have to travel a lot in general, but Whiteside has had to move homes so many times, playing with so many different teams in such a small period of time.

But now, after all of those experiences in all of those different places, Whiteside has risen to the point any basketball fan would hope with his 7-foot, 265-pound body. His brother, Anthony, told Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick how Hassan has grown as a person since departing from Marshall University after just one season.

“He’s had a chance to go through some things and mature,” Anthony said. “I think he really appreciates it now. I came down there for his home game against OKC, and just his whole demeanor, I told my Mom, just his whole personality, you can tell he’s mature by the way he acts. He’s not like a big kid anymore. We were talking about he would have just been graduating college last year, if he would have stayed in college. So I think it was that age and having a chance to mature a little more.”

Everyone’s journey to the NBA is different. While every player’s journey may seem similar, there are a lot of factors, like who/what fueled them to work so hard at their craft, where they played in college (or high school, back in those days), who they played with, and how long their rise to stardom took. Whiteside’s rise, for the player he has shown to be in his short time with the Heat, is especially unique.

While the time frame in which it took Whiteside to become a stud in the league may not seem so long, the experiences inside show how much he truly had to go through to get to this point, and how incredible it is that Hassan never quit. No matter how much pain he must have endured playing overseas instead of the U.S., in the NBA, Whiteside stuck with it with the hope of fulfilling his dream.

For now, Whiteside’s future in the NBA and with the Heat is only a prediction. That’s the case with everyone, of course, but we haven’t seen enough to truly predict what he could be.

While the story may sound similar to “Linsanity”, it doesn’t feel the same. Whiteside has the tools and energy to become one of the league’s top centers, as crazy as it may sound. And in a winning culture, trying to get back to the place LeBron James took them before returning to Cleveland, the Heat are sure to work with Whiteside until he is the man that makes them unbeatable again. As much as Miami would love to replace James, though, it will never happen. But that doesn’t mean Whiteside can’t bring the Heat back into contention.

After three consecutive years of struggling with the Pacers’ size in the playoffs, the Heat finally have the man to fill that void down low. Of course that doesn’t matter much now, as neither team is much of a contender anymore. James isn’t there to carry the Heat when they need it, and Paul George’s absence has caused the Pacers to fall out of the playoffs completely.

But this isn’t about any other team. This isn’t about a rivalry or a player leaving. This is about Hassan Whiteside, who may not have enough to put his team in the Eastern Conference Finals this season, but is developing into someone that possibly could in the future.

To be a great team, unless you have LeBron like those title-winning Heat did, you have to have a great center. No matter how much national attention they may get, the guys down low doing the dirty work are as much a factor as any household name. Hassan Whiteside isn’t quite a household name yet, but if he continues to ascend like this, that could actually be a thing very soon.