By Tim Cleveland
After a whirlwind life that has sent him to two colleges, the battlefields of Iraq and back home again, Youngstown native Chivas Whipple will be honored for his accomplishments on the basketball court when he will be inducted into the Point Park Pioneer Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 28 in the school’s Lawrence Hall.
“It’s just a blessing and an honor,” Whipple said. “I couldn’t do it without God and the support of my family.”
The 34-year-old Whipple spent three seasons at Point Park from 2005-08. He is the fourth-leading scorer in school history with 1,736 points and the sixth-most prolific rebounder with 731. He was named an NAIA Division II All-American all three seasons.
Whipple said he had several influences that helped lead him from Youngstown to the Point Park Hall of Fame.
“Definitely my mother, Yvonne. She worked like around the clock to provide for me and my sister,” he said. “My grandfather, Robert Gatling, was one of the only positive male role models in my life. My cousin David Johnson, he kind of introduced me how to handle myself as a man. A man named Mervin Wagner, who was like my father figure, ultimately helped mold me to find out who I really was and what I stood for.”
Johnson humbly deflected any role he had in making Whipple the man he is today.
“He was already a good young man,” Johnson said. “We all need some guidance. We both were young. I have a work ethic. I showed him a work ethic and to pursue your dreams. The military, to me, prepared him a lot more than me. I don’t take credit for nothing. He worked on his manhood on his own.”
Whipple began his basketball career at Rayen High School before transferring to Calvary Christian. He was attending Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan when he had an epiphany that he needed to enter the military.
“I really wasn’t focused on school. I went to college and was going through the motions,” he said. “I didn’t want to sit around and get a mediocre job, so I decided to enroll.”
Whipple joined the United States Marine Corps and had two tours of Iraq from 2000-05, earning the rank of sergeant.
After being honorably discharged on Feb. 14, 2005, Whipple threw himself back into his studies, enrolling in Point Park, which is located in Pittsburgh. He majored in psychology while playing on the basketball team at the advanced age of 26.
Whipple will be entering his second season as an assistant coach for the Girard boys basketball program and works as a school liaison for Education Alternatives, which is based in Cleveland, but recently opened a school in Youngstown.
He said despite all of his accomplishments at Point Park, Whipple feels the action on the court was secondary.
“The games never really mattered to me. It was the camaraderie with my teammates and being a part of something moving forward in my life,” he said. “The games I just played with a passion. None of us really cared about stats and my coaches put me in a position to be the man. At the end of the day, I was only the man because the players on my team deferred to me. I can’t just say this is what did it. The only thing I can say is I had been through so much at that point. My mom had cancer and her and my sister were taking care of our family while I was away at college.
“I always wanted to give back to where I came from. Nothing is more valuable than getting out and giving back. Giving monetarily or giving back with time. That is the most important thing.”