Athlete of the Week: Westbrook creating a legacy of his own

Published 1:04 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Over the past few years at Springwood, the last name Westbrook has been a major talking point for the athletics program. This season, there is a new face with the last name, but the results have been even better than expected. 

As a senior, Daniel Westbrook has stepped up to the plate both in the locker room and on the hardwood. Westbrook has become one of Springwood’s most outspoken leaders, but he has also backed it up with his play. 

Westbrook is averaging 17.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season. Westbrook’s improvement has come from a lot of work in the offseason and in practice, but the biggest change has been his mentality. 

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Westbrook has become more aggressive this season as he has been able to find his shot with ease and consistently create fastbreak opportunities. 

“I realized I needed to take it to a different level so that we can win,” Westbrook said. “I try to come into every game as aggressive as I can be. I’m pretty confident. I put in a lot of work, I’ve played a lot. It just comes naturally.” 

This year has been different for Westbrook as it’s his first season not playing alongside his brother, Eli Westbrook. Eli Westbrook was a dominant athlete at Springwood, and he now is on the swim team at Eastern Illinois. 

“It’s been a lot different,” Daniel Westbrook said. “There hasn’t been a year that I’ve been here where I haven’t played with him, so it’s actually a lot different. After a while, you get used to it and kind of just play.” 

Despite not being related to anyone on the team, Westbrook has still built a tight bond with his teammates. Westbrook and the rest of the Wildcats spend a lot of time together outside of basketball, and that has created a special bond on the court. 

Daniel’s relationship and competition with his brother, Eli, have helped mold him into the player he is today. Just like iron sharpens iron, the two helped each other grow as athletes. 

“Growing up, we were always playing one one-on-one in the driveway,” Daniel Westbrook said. “Always playing against each other, making each other better. Along the way, he tells me tips and tricks to give me different moves to just teach me along the way and take me under his wing.” 

Individually, Westbrook hopes to reach 1,000 points before Springwood’s season comes to an end, but his main focus is on the team’s success. 

The Wildcats have their sights firmly set on a state championship, and Westbrook is ready to do what it takes to reach that goal.

“I want to win the state championship, and that’s the goal we’re heading to and striving to get,” Westbrook said. “We need to focus on rebounding. If we can outrebound the other team, we’ll win pretty much every time.” 

Westbrook stepping up as a leader for Springwood was expected. Coming into the season, coach Lisa Sampson knew Westbrook would be a big part of the Wildcats’ success.

“He’s done an amazing job,” Sampson said. “I’m super proud of the way he’s led. Not only just by telling people what to do, but by his actions on the floor. I couldn’t have asked for more senior leadership than what we’re getting out of him.” 

Springwood lost it’s best rebounder, Crawford Fuller, earlier this season. Fuller is set to return soon, but Westbrook and the rest of the team have made a point to fill in for his absence. 

“We realized once Crawford went down that we didn’t have a choice,” Westbrook said. “We just talked about it and made it a real focal point. That’s what we’ve done, putting bodies on people and getting rebounds.” 

At 6-foot-3, Westbrook has elite size for his ability. Westbrook has plans to play at the next level, and he already has schools like University of Alabama at Huntsville knocking down his door. Westbrook should make an impact at any university he chooses to go to. Westbrook plans to major in computer science. 

The next step in Westbrook’s mind is for him to continue improving in the weight room. Westbrook hopes to add more muscle to his frame before he makes the transition to college hoops. 

“If I want to get to the next level and play how I want to play, I need to get in the weight room,” Westbrook said. 

The best part of Springwood’s offense has been the amount of options the team has each time down the floor. CJ Johnson, Micah Thomas and Westbrook alternate as the leading scorer on any given night, and it’s been their unselfishness that has set the Wildcats apart from the pact.

“That truly has been why we’ve been so successful because we will share the ball,” Sampson said. “Nobody is really worried about their own stats.” 

The Wildcats are currently 20-4 with a region tournament game against Glenwood on Wednesday to determine playoff seeding. Westbrook along with the rest of the Wildcats will be a bunch to watch in the postseason.