By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Dec 28, 2012, 17:21
Chester native Andrew White III (3), a freshman on the University of Kansas men’s basketball team, dribbles past a defender from Emporia State University during a scrimmage on Oct. 30 in Lawrence, Kan. (photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics).
High school basketball programs will oftentimes commemorate a former player’s accomplishments by retiring his or her jersey number. At this point, Andrew White III’s legacy at the Miller School is a little more colloquial.
“There’s a term on campus with the guys who got a chance to see him work,” said Mavericks coach Scott Willard. “They say they’re going to put together an ‘Andrew White-type workout,’ which means really get after it or put together a week where they’re getting up at 6 a.m. every day to get in extra work.”
Willard hailed the Chester native’s work ethic as “unmatched in my 10 years of coaching.” Now, 11 games into White’s freshman season at the University of Kansas, the hard work is paying off.
White, who played at Thomas Dale before finishing his high school career under Willard’s leadership at the Charlottesville-based boarding school, has appeared in eight of the sixth-ranked Jayhawks’ 11 games.
To date, he has posted averages of 4.5 points, 2 rebounds and 7.5 minutes per outing.
“I think I’m in a good rhythm now,” White said. “I’m used to practice and I’m in good game shape. Things are coming a little easier now that I’ve gotten my feet wet with the system.”
But the former high school standout acknowledged that the transition to the college ranks has been far from seamless.
Andrew White III (3), a Chester native who plays basketball for the University of Kansas, defends a Richmond ball handler during a game on Dec. 18 in Lawrence, Kan. White is averaging 4.5 points, 2 rebounds and 7.5 minutes in his freshman season with the sixth-ranked Jayhawks (photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics).
“It took five months of practice at a speed that was uncomfortable,” White said. “I think that was the toughest part about it. And when you’re going so much harder for six and seven days every week, it kind of takes a toll on your body.”
Acclimating himself to the time crunch that today’s student-athletes encounter also has been a challenge, but White has approached his new athletic and academic endeavors with a workman’s mentality.
His ever-increasing comfort was on full display during a clash with Belmont on Dec. 15 in Lawrence, Kan. That night, White formally introduced himself to a crowd of 16,300 fans at Allen Fieldhouse by scoring 15 points in 10 minutes of playing time.
“I think the best part about it was showing [Kansas coach Bill Self] that I can be a pretty productive player,” White said. “Because when you’re a freshman and you’re not an all star, efficiency and hustle are what get it done.”
Playing the four spot in a four-guard lineup, White connected on six of his eight shots from the floor and drained three of five attempted 3-pointers against the Bruins.
The breakout performance boosted White’s budding reputation as an elite threat from beyond the arc.
“It’s a crazy feeling being on the TV in your own house,” White said. “[Allen Fieldhouse] is one of the best venues for college basketball, and now my reputation as a shooter has gotten around campus. Every time I take a shot, the crowd gets loud. Make or miss.”
White’s renowned jump shot is a byproduct of his work ethic, and Willard said it was already well-polished when he first stumbled upon White as a junior at Thomas Dale.
“He had a unique skillset being able to shoot the ball,” Willard recalled. “His position on his shot was the same every time, and you just don’t get that with high school kids.”
The following summer, White opted to reclassify as a junior and transfer to the Miller School, a difficult decision that he said was ultimately beneficial on several fronts.
Firstly, he said the regimented environment of the boarding school eliminated distractions and helped him improve in the classroom. On the court, the move allowed White to continue to play his natural position at shooting guard.
While White was one of the tallest players on the Thomas Dale team that reached the 2010 Group AAA tournament, he joined forces with three players that were 6-9 or taller at the Miller School the following season.
Perhaps most importantly, the decision to reclassify gave White an extra year to focus on bulking up. During his two-year stint with the Mavericks, White heaped 15 to 20 pounds of muscle onto his once-lanky frame.
While his jumper has long been the centerpiece of White’s offensive repertoire, his newly sculpted 210-pound body proved to be the finishing touch that made him one of the top 50 recruits in the country.
“That certainly helped him go from a low- to mid-major prospect to a no-question-high-major player,” Willard said.
In addition to Kansas, Louisville, West Virginia, Texas, N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Richmond and Cincinnati were all among the gaggle of suitors that expressed interest in White.
White eventually chose the Jayhawks in part because he thinks the pick-and-roll nuances of Self’s offense will help prepare him for a professional career.
“I just thought that the playing situation was good for me,” White said. “I like their system, I like their staff and I thought their player development was sharp.”
White makes no bones about his desire to play in the National Basketball Association. Willard, who has served as an assistant coach for three United States all-star teams, thinks that goal is well within the realm of possibility for his former protege.
“I’ve coached and worked out some NBA guys,” Willard said. “Andrew certainly has all the tools. If he continues to develop his game and get better with his skillset, he’ll have a shot to play professionally.
“Whether it’s at the highest level in the NBA or overseas, he certainly has the body, skill and god-given talent to do it.”
But White insists that’s not on his mind right now. “I’m not a one-and-done type of player,” he said. Rather, the communications major indicated that he is singularly focused on a short-term checklist.
“I just want to win the Big 12 Conference and get back to the Final Four and the championship,” White said. “I think we have the team that can do it this year.”
The perennial powerhouse Jayhawks have won three national titles, the most recent of which came in 2008. Kansas lost to top-seeded Kentucky in last year’s national championship game.