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High school lacrosse: IHC’s Whalen headed to play at Drexel

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Jude Whalen has proven to be an athlete for all seasons at Immaculate Heart Central.

But there is no doubt about what his top sport at the scholastic level is — lacrosse.

Whalen made it official on Tuesday morning by signing his letter of intent to attend Drexel University where he hopes to play Division I lacrosse.

“It’s a good day today,” Whalen said after a ceremony in the school’s library, which was packed with family, well wishers and fellow students. “There’s a lot of stress relief in signing that. It’s a long process and I’m glad I made this decision.”

Whalen has played lacrosse at the varsity level since the eighth grade when he was called up to play for the Cavaliers in the playoffs.

“I started playing in seventh grade,” Whalen said of lacrosse, “and pretty much made it my main sport by playing lacrosse in the summer time.”

“Jude has worked exceptionally hard over the last two summers to get where he is today,” IHC boys lacrosse coach Denny Patrick said. “To be rewarded with a Division I scholarship is a great honor for him.”

Whalen, who refers to his height “as a steady 5-foot-11,” has emerged as a standout defender for IHC in lacrosse, and helps lead the defensive corps with an “aggressive approach.”

“I like the pace of the game and I think the sport fits me well,” Whalen said. “I’m not always the tallest or the biggest like in basketball, but in lacrosse I can be a different type of player and be successful.”

The Cavaliers’ starting point guard in basketball, Whalen also excelled in soccer, but chose to play varsity football to kick off his senior season at IHC.

“As many of you know, this will be Jude’s fourth year on varsity basketball,” IHC athletic director and boys basketball coach Mike Delaney said. “I’ve enjoyed very much coaching him ... Jude is one of those special athletes who come along all too infrequently. He’s talented, skillful, committed, dedicated to self improvement. In practice and in games, no one works harder or competes harder.”

Whalen chose Drexel after considering both Syracuse and Colgate, but ultimately signed on with the Philadelphia school.

“Their program is really a good one,” Whalen said. “They’re always ranked in the top 20 and they’re a great academic school. I went down there and visited and I love the city of Philadelphia — it’s really a good fit for me.”

IHC owns a rich lacrosse tradition as Whalen is the first Cavalier who will go on to play Division I lacrosse since Tom Burgess, who is currently a junior at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“I think Drexel is a great fit for Jude,” Patrick said. “Obviously his skills on the field speak for themselves and his leadership over the course of the last three years has improved every year. I think there will be a little bit of a learning curve, but I think he’ll fit in quite well.”

Patrick continued: “He started out as a long-stick midfielder as a freshman, moved to play close defense as a sophomore. He’s plays on the wings for faceoffs and then drops down and plays against the other team’s best attackman or midfielder. He’s very versatile and he does it all for us.”

Whalen, who thanked Patrick, his parents, and Central New York Road Hawks coach Mike Stagnitta, also made mention of a player from rival Watertown High School — Brad McKinney — who signed his letter of intent to attend Syracuse University last Thursday.

“Lastly, I want to give a special thanks to my buddy Brad McKinney,” said Whalen, who was selected as a Times All-North first teamer in lacrosse this year and in soccer in 2012. “Everywhere I went playing lacrosse in the offseason, it was always easier playing with my best friend there. So thanks for being my partner in crime in the summer time and my rival during the school year.”

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