"She is one of, if not the best senior in the country." -Mickie DeMoss, Kentucky Head Coach
"Impressive since her freshman year, she's aggressive, can slash, plays hard defense, rebound and has a really nice shot." -Nancy Lieberman, ESPN.com
These are just a few of the numerous compliments that three-time all-SEC player Tan White has received in her final season as a Lady Bulldog. White has been the go-to player in Starkville since she first stepped onto the court in Humphrey Coliseum in 2001. Considering she has been one of the top five scorers in the Southeastern Conference over her entire career, White's talents do not end at putting the ball in the hoop. She is three steals shy of the SEC All-Time Steals record with 357. In addition, White has found her way atop several MSU career categories: blocked shots (111), three-point field goals made (206) and three-point field goals attempted (671). In her entire career, White has failed to score double digit points in only six of 117 career games.
For any freshman player to get a lot of minutes during her first year deserves applause. White not only got playing time, but she started every game during her rookie season as a Bulldog.
"It is really a good feeling to come out of high school and be able to adjust to playing at another level," said White. "It was very exciting for me."
Starting as a freshman was not enough for the Tupelo, Miss.-native. White began breaking MSU records that year, including three-pointers made by a freshman with 53. Her average of 18.5 points a game and 575 total points put her third in scoring in the SEC on her way to totaling nine double-double performances. White averaged 35.2 minutes per game, recorded 91 steals (fourth in the SEC) and led the Lady Bulldogs in blocked shots with 26. While every team needs and appreciates point scorers, that is not all the 5'7" guard is capable of contributing. White can pick a team apart with her passing, totaling 134 assists in her first year.
The 2002 Associated Press SEC Newcomer of the Year undoubtedly had a major hand in the Lady Bulldogs' 19-12 record and a second round appearance in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. She made an impact on the national scene when Basketball Times named her to the All-Freshman team as well as naming her the Women's Basketball Freshman of the Year. WomensCollegehoops.com placed the guard on the first team Freshman All-American Team.
Since her freshman year White has done nothing but raise the bar in terms of her play as an individual and her ability to be part of a team. Most college athletes get their first opportunity to contribute to their team during their sophomore season. At this point in her collegiate career, White was already off and running. Making the jump from a rookie to a sophomore was not easy from White's point of view.
"People don't know you your freshman year," explained White. "When teams have seen you play, they watch how you play ahead of time and try to play defense to your style of play."
During her sophomore campaign, White continued to set records and achieve national honors. She claimed the records for most steals by a Lady Bulldog sophomore (104), most assists by a sophomore (124) and most three-pointers by a sophomore (62). It was during this season when she eclipsed the 1,000-point mark on Feb. 16, 2003, at home against Kentucky en route to 580 season points and an average of 18.1 points per game. She also tallied 217 rebounds, averaging 6.8 a game. This successful season for White helped drive the 2002-03 Lady Bulldogs to their most wins ever in a season (24), best record in SEC play (10-4) and best regular season record (22-6) and second round NCAA Tournament appearance.
As a junior, White lived up to the expectations put on her by her previous two seasons. She made history in Starkville as she became the fourth Lady Bulldog to post both 1,500+ career points and 500+ career rebounds. On the way to these milestones, she scored 585 season points and pulled down 182 rebounds. She also set yet another Mississippi State record with her 81.6 free throw percentage for a junior. In 32 games, she averaged over 20 points per game and only failed to score in double digits one time. According to White, she had the highlight of her career during this season.
"Hitting the shot against Arkansas to win the game is my most memorable moment," said White.
This feat came at home on Feb. 1, 2004. This game was one of six that season in which she led the team in points and rebounds.
Her senior season has been far from ordinary considering White averages 22.8 points a game, second best in the nation and tops in the conference in scoring. On Jan. 3 during a home game against Birmingham-Southern, she became only the second Lady Bulldog to reach 2,000 career points. She holds the NCAA and SEC record this season for points in a game, netting a career-high 47 points on Feb. 3 vs. Vanderbilt.
So far this season White has also emerged as one of the top-20 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, given to the best female basketball player in the nation. In addition she is a midseason Naismith Award candidate, a Senior CLASS nominee and was named to Collegiate Basketball Award of Excellence "Watch List." She was also recognized as a preseason State Farm Wade Trophy candidate.
As White's senior year progresses towards postseason play, she continues to lead her team in all ways possible. On the court she is the spark for the Lady Bulldogs. On offense, she wants the ball when the game is on the line. On defense she can be counted on to create turnovers in crucial situations. Head coach Sharon Fanning has watched White excel and lead by example.
"Tan has been an excellent teacher for our younger players and is striving to be a leader both on and off the court," said Fanning. "She works hard in practice and will make sure her teammates understand the price to be paid for success. On the court is not the only place that Tan exemplifies leadership. She has also set an example in the classroom with a 3.1 GPA this past fall semester, and she has been involved in several community service organizations in Starkville including our Adopt-A-Family program at Christmas, the Halloween carnival on campus, Compassion Pantry at one of our local churches, our K-8 Adopt-A-Player program and 'Meet the Player' days for university and alumni activities."
White is pursuing a degree in educational psychology and plans on becoming a social worker. She has other plans as well, which include her dream job of playing professional basketball. Her dream has a very good chance of coming true. According to WNBA analyst Ann Meyers on WNBA.com, White will get her shot in the WNBA.
"Tan White just might be the top guard taken in this year's draft," said Meyers. White is also listed as a "potential high impact rookie in 2005."
Although it appears that White is a lock to be in the draft come April, she remains committed to her team this season.
"I'm not really focused on what happens next," said White. "It is something you have to plan for but right now I am just trying to help us get into the NCAA Tournament."
All of the attention and awards White has received has not gone to her head. Anyone watching her interact with her teammates, both on and off the court, can see that she sees herself as no more than a member of this team. Fellow senior Rebecca Kates has been a teammate of White's since they were freshmen.
"It's not that she just scores, but she gives too," said Kates. "I can't say how many times a game she sets me up for shots. She's not only doing it on the offensive end but on the defensive end, getting steals and rebounds. She"s just a great player."
White has definitely made her mark on Starkville, Humphrey Coliseum and the Lady Bulldog basketball program. She will be greatly missed and leaves some large shoes to be filled.