Bloomington, Ind. - Junior college forward Mike White is scheduled to arrive in Bloomington tonight, and if all goes according to plan he should be returning this fall.
The 6-6, 235-pound forward from Baytown, Texas' Lee College is making his official visit to IU this weekend. White originally was showing serious interest in Oklahoma when Kelvin Sampson was coaching the Sooner program, and has since taken a liking to IU since Sampson was named its head coach last week.
"I would think he could commit," said Lee College Coach Roy Champagne. "It might not be right then and there, but I do think this will be over quickly. Mike's not one to drag anything out. Unless something goes drastically wrong – which I doubt it would – I feel comfortable (Indiana) is where Mike Hopes to be."
Indiana and Sampson are certainly hoping everything does work out with White, a Springhill, La., native who averaged 19.4 points and 7.4 rebounds this season for Lee College. The Hoosiers have some holes to fill on the frontline during the April signing period, and White appears to be a top priority for Sampson.
Champagne says White is a versatile frontline player, someone who was used exclusively in the paint as a freshman but has since added new dimensions to his game.
"As a freshman all we did was put a saddle on him and we rode him block to block – he never left the paint," Champagne said. "Then in the off-season, we told him we needed him to be able to face up and hit the 15-footer and the high post jump shot and he took that, understood what we wanted, and ran with it."
Champagne said it didn't take long for the soft-spoken White to add those wrinkles to his game, which made him a much tougher matchup for teams in the JUCO ranks this past winter.
"He looked like (Detroit Piston) Rip Hamilton in the off-season, running baseline and coming off double screens," Champagne said. "He'd catch, pump fake, and put it on the floor, pull-up jumper – it was beautiful to watch."
One of the reasons White was able to become a more versatile player was because he got himself into better shape as well. White arrived at Lee College as a 6-6, 288-pounder with near 20 percent body fat, but he's since dropped 50 pounds from his frame and his body fat is down to 5.6 percent.
"Mike comes from a small town, and he was struggling with preseason conditioning as a freshman," Champagne said. "Just told him ‘I don't care if you make the times that we have set, I just care that you finish every single thing we ask you to do,' and he did that. Sometimes it took him a lengthy time to finish what we were asking, but he finished it, and the pounds just came off."
That's made him an even more highly-coveted junior college commodity as well. He's generally considered one of the top 10 junior college players in the country, and Champagne says he's the best player he's coached in his 13 years at Lee College. That's no small feat, considering Champagne also coached former Louisville forward Kendall Dartez, former Oregon guard Andre Joseph and one-time LSU and North Texas big man Shawnson Johnson.
"He's strong as a bull, but he's very finesse with that as well," Champagne said. "His jump shot is silky smooth, but his power is very explosive."
Those sort of attributes are what attracted Sampson to him. White's attraction to Indiana, meanwhile, is due to Sampson's track record, coupled with the fact he had some interest from a couple of Big Ten schools in the fall – Purdue and Ohio State.
"He just knows his record, what he's been able to do with junior college players," Champagne said. "He knows what he's done from a win-loss standpoint, what he's done from where Oklahoma was to where it is today. Indiana is ahead of that schedule."
Champagne, meanwhile, is familiar with Sampson as well. While he hasn't had any others play for the 23-year Division I head coaching veteran, his brother, Bobby, spent six years as an assistant for Sampson at Washington State and then Oklahoma. Bobby Champagne is now the head coach at Division II North Alabama.
That gives Roy Champagne a unique perspective on Sampson, one he can share with White.
"I think Coach (Sampson) was a great hire, and I think Mike sees that," Champagne said.
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