When Hilliard Davidson High School boys basketball player Grant Whipple lines up to defend opposing centers, who are typically three to six inches taller, he can tell they are sizing him up.

When Hilliard Davidson High School boys basketball player Grant Whipple lines up to defend opposing centers, who are typically three to six inches taller, he can tell they are sizing him up.

Thus, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior post player feels a sense of pride at the end of games when he's able to hold taller players to a relatively low amount of points and rebounds to earn their respect.

"Every team has a bigger post man than me, and I tell by the way they look at me that they think that it's going to be easy to score on me because of my size," Whipple said. "It's a big challenge to guard bigger players, but I love playing with a chip on my shoulder and doing what I can.

"Sometimes they talk a little trash, but I don't say anything back. I just try to hold them to a low point total and help my team. I've had (opposing) coaches tell me I played a good defensive game and that feels good."

At 6-4 and 225 pounds, junior Keith Heitzman was expected to permanently take over the starting center position once he got back into basketball shape after helping lead the football team to the Division I state championship.

After Whipple started the first four games, he was replaced by Heitzman for three games. But Heitzman unexpectedly quit playing basketball to focus on football in early January, opening the door for Whipple to return to being the starting center.

Whipple has made the most of his opportunity, as the Wildcats were 7-0 with him in the starting lineup before playing Thomas Worthington last Tuesday.

Coach Kevin Logsdon is pleased with the way Whipple has handled the challenge, especially considering it's his first year playing varsity.

"Grant's definitely undersized for the position he plays, but he's done a good job guarding guys who are 6-6 and 6-7 and he's done a good job on the boards, too," Logsdon said. "Grant may get outsized, but he never gets outworked. He's one of our best offensive rebounders. Since we don't have the luxury of a kid who is 6-6 or 6-7 in our lineup, we guard teams in a number of different ways, from man to a variety of zones. Grant gives us some versatility defensively, because when we go into zone, he's quick enough go out on the wing or perimeter and guard guys there, too."

During a 49-38 win over Westland on Jan. 12, Whipple guarded Cougars post player James Wilson (6-6, 240) and helped limit him to four points.

Whipple developed a knack for battling bigger players in the post while growing up playing basketball against his older cousins, Kyle and Drew Caddey. He said the key to defending larger centers is to prevent them from getting into a good position in the post.

"I've played guys who were bigger and stronger than me my whole life, so I'm used to it," he said. "The thing I've learned to do is to beat them to the spot where they want to be and to hold my ground. I use my legs to force them off the blocks, because refs are always looking to call fouls if they see you using your hands. If you can beat a bigger player to the spot, there's a chance you can draw a foul when they try to go through you. I work hard to get into the right position to box them out for rebounds, too."

Whipple, who was averaging only 1.7 points through 11 games, would like to use his quickness to score more in the paint during the second half of the season.

"My quickness gives me a huge advantage over most post players on offense, so I try to drive past them and get them into foul trouble," Whipple said. "Sometimes I pass up on shots when I'm open, though, because I'm always looking to pass the ball to a teammate. I'd like to do a better job of scoring when I get chances in the future."

Whipple, who has a 4.05 grade point average and also starts for the baseball team, said he's been influenced by his parents, Jon and Amy, to do his best in both academics and athletics.

He is playing in honor of his father, who passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis last April. Also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS is a fatal neuromuscular disease characterized by progressive muscle weakness resulting in paralysis.

"I definitely try to play hard for him, because he loved to watch me play and I want to do my best for him," Whipple said. "I think of him before every game."

Amy Whipple said her son's classmates and teammates have helped him cope with the loss of his father.

"The whole community rallied around us," she said. "They took my husband to games when he couldn't go by himself anymore. My husband took great delight in watching Grant play sports. We went to every game, and Jon was always very proud of him."