Bloomington – Evan White had one giant obstacle standing in his way in his hopes of playing college basketball.
His college classes.
When the 6'1", 190-pound guard from Ft. Wayne Harding H.S. signed up for his first semester classes over the summer, he wasn't taking the basketball practice schedule into consideration. White was on an academic scholarship as an Arts Management major, so avoiding afternoon classes wasn't first and foremost on his mind.
But once a phone conversation between his high school coach and IU assistant coach Tim Buckley resulted in an offer to tryout for the team back in late August, his class schedule suddenly became an issue. White is in class from 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday, and that was something White was afraid could keep him from getting the chance to join the team.
"Talking to Coach (Tom) Crean, when I know I'm still in a tryout position, I had to tell him, ‘coach, I can't be at practice today,'" White said. "That's another day I didn't get to show my abilities. I was hoping."
After spending nearly two full months with his status in limbo, White is no longer having to hope. White was officially added to Indiana's roster earlier this week, becoming the sixth walk-on for the 2008-09 squad. The class conflicts will remain until the second semester, when he'll be able to schedule his courses around IU's practice schedule.
"He didn't come with the intention of being on the team, so until second semester comes, we won't have him quite as much," Crean said.
White is coming off a very solid season a year ago at Ft. Wayne Harding, where he averaged a team-best 16.4 points per game on a team that went 22-4 and lost in the Class 3A state final to the Tyler Zeller-led Washington H.S. team. White said he received some token recruiting interest from Western Kentucky, Miami (Ohio) and St. Francis, but ultimately decided to go in another direction.
"I felt I could compete on a higher level," White said.
He's going to get that opportunity at Indiana. While no one is expecting White to step into the starting lineup this season, he'll have an opportunity to find a niche on the team according to Crean.
"I like his attitude, I like his athleticism," Crean said. "He's another one of those guys, especially in that walk on situation, if they can figure out how to maximize their role, which is pressuring the basketball, delivering the basketball, being a catalyst on defense, getting people open, not trying to do things that we don't need them to do, then there's a place for them. He has an opportunity just like everyone."
White has already impressed teammate Verdell Jones with his play during the first two weeks of practice as well as during the individual workouts back in September and early October.
"I think he's an outstanding player - I don't know why he wasn't at a D-I school anywhere else playing on scholarship," Jones said. "He's a great defender, very quick, can make plays, and he's improved his jumper. He's a great player to play against and with."
Now, Jones knows he'll have the opportunity to work with White for the rest of the season. White's status as a member of the team was officially resolved Tuesday at the Men's Basketball Tip-Off Banquet at Assembly Hall, when Crean alerted White and 800 on-lookers about his addition.
"(Crean) pulled me up to the podium and he asked me a series of questions," White said. "He asked me if I was ready for the commitment? Was I ready to attend class every day? Was I ready to play my heart out? And I said yes sir to all three questions. He said ‘welcome to the team.'"
That was a special moment for White, who admits he had thoughts in the back of his mind that he might have a chance to join IU's team due to the turnover of the roster following Kelvin Sampson's departure. Now, he knows it's a reality.
"Being here I know it's a wonderful tradition, and it's something I greatly appreciate to be a part of," White said.
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