Paul White missed much of last summer due to injuries. Speaking from the summer-ending GRBA National Championships in Fort Wayne last weekend, he says he is finally getting healthy.
"Just about. I am getting over the ankle injury that I got at the Michigan State team camp, so I would say I'm healthy. I missed the whole July period last year, so I'm trying to make up for that this year."
White has the versatility to play outside or inside. He can hit the three, he has a good midrange game, and he can take his man off the dribble. His all-around potential makes him a dynamic college prospect, but he needs playing time to develop all his skills to the fullest. That time has been limited due to his injuries.
"Not to try to make any excuses, but I feel like I've had too many injuries, and it really set me back a whole lot. I feel like if it wasn't for that, I feel like I would be in the top 10 in the nation. I feel like I would have gotten the job done."
The advantage of setbacks is it gives one a chance to mature as a person and player. White appears to have a good perspective on the game of life.
"It kind of hurts, but one thing I've learned is that things happen, and you've got to deal with it. So now I'm just trying to get healthy, get in the weight room finally and get ready to produce."
His body continues to grow and fill out. He will be able to develop his game even more once he reaches his maximum height and gets accustomed to his adult body.
"I'm 6'-9" right now. Hopefully I'll get a couple more inches too."
White played with the 17U Meanstreets AAU team this summer. He feels he benefitted from playing against older players.
"I feel like I've gotten much better. Playing with the older kids, stronger kids, better competition, I feel my all-around game has gotten much better. I feel I've got more of a mental toughness. I'm looking forward to playing with Whitney Young this year."
Playing with older kids throughout his young life helped him develop his versatility.
"I used to play with older kids, and I wasn't always 6'-9". So when I played with older kids, they were taller than me. I had to learn to play along the perimeter. Playing in the city of Chicago, I was playing a bunch of mini tournaments, neighborhood tournaments like playing street ball, stuff like that, playing with older guys.
"And then when I started playing with kids my age, I could see how much taller I was than them. Everything seemed a lot easier."
A tall player with guard skills gives him a great advantage, especially when he plays on the perimeter.
"If there is a mismatch, if I have a 6'-2" guy on me, I'm going to the block. That's probably the biggest advantage to my game."
That plus being able to shoot over opponents and his ability to penetrate off the dribble from the high post.
"I feel like I'm getting better on that aspect. I'm learning moves to make it easier for me to drive with guys riding me the whole way, and then finishing. I wish to use every advantage I have."
White's 17U AAU season ended a week early. So he rejoined the 16U team for its games in Fort Wayne.
"Unfortunately, we ended up at the Peach Jam, and after that tournament, we didn't play any more tournaments. We had a real good EYBL season, but when it came down to Peach Jam, we just couldn't pull it out the way we wanted to."
White shouldn't feel too disappointed in that result. He has his junior year at Whitney Young ahead, and his team should be outstanding. Their front line is massive, with Jahlil Okafor at 6'-11", Tommy Hamilton at 6'-9" plus White.
"Yeah, it's huge. We're expecting big things this year."
If his high school team had a weakness last year, it was finding enough ball handling guards to complement the big fellas. White feels that aspect will be improved this winter.
"I think our guard play is gonna be good. I feel like Miles Reynolds will develop a much better game. I have complete confidence in what we're gonna do next year. I'm looking forward to it."
White was offered by the previous Illinois coaching staff, and that offer still stands. He is developing a relationship with new head coach John Groce and his staff. So far, he likes what he sees and hears.
"I've made contact with new coach Groce and his staff. It's not like there hasn't been a little bridge between me and Illinois. I'm just giving it time to look at them.
"I've talked mostly with Coach Groce. He seems like a real straight-forward guy. He seems like he's a player's coach. He tells you what you need to do out there, but also he does pat you on the back when you're doing a good job. Some coaches just yell at you. He tries to make you feel good about what you're doing."
He has plenty of college interest to date.
"Florida, Ohio State, Marquette, Arizona, Illinois, Wisconsin...there's a lot of schools."
He is contemplating a visit to the Illini soon.
"I'll sit down with my family and decide where I'll take my visits this August."