"He was like, ‘We just need you to go in there and not hurt the team,'" White said. "He said he believed in me and thought I could do it. It definitely helps with confidence being reassured by Coach Williams."
Because only a limited amount of players can dress out for any given game, everyone – including the group referred to as Blue Steel – makes sure they are prepared to play. But even so, it's one thing to know you're going to go play versus thinking that you possibly could play.
"Before I really wasn't sure – I think I was one of the few people on the team that never knew if I was going to get in the first half or play at all or get in late in the second half," White said. "Now, I kind of know certain spots when I'm coming in the game and it's a lot easier to prep for because you know when your number is going to be called. It's just a little more reassuring knowing what you're going to do."
Larry Drew's decision to leave the program midway through the ACC season last February forced the North Carolina coaching staff to find an extra body at the point guard position to meet its desired quota of three points on the roster. With Marion, Iowa star Marcus Paige already committed for the 2012 class, Williams had to maneuver adeptly to find a suitable option.
Enter White, a Wilmington, N.C. native who committed to UNC on Mar. 29 after receiving a scholarship offer one day earlier. UNC assistant Jerod Haase put in the leg work and delivered with a solid plan that satisfied both parties. White, a member of the Mormon church, would delay his planned two-year mission trip for one season. That would give North Carolina a safety bridge until Paige arrived and then White would return two years down the road with experience on the court and abroad.
So while White may have been thinking that it could realistically be three years before seeing any significant minutes, the urgency of the situation hasn't been too big for him. He played in the final minute against Virginia Tech despite lingering flu symptoms and worried the fan base with some spotty play, ending with a missed 3-pointer and a turnover that helped the Hokies knock five points off their deficit.
But in his two games since having time to prepare both mentally and physically, White has been solid off the bench. He played 80 seconds in the first half against N.C. State and found Tyler Zeller breaking to the basket for an assist. White logged three minutes in the first half against Georgia Tech, and for both games combined, he has totaled six points on 2-of-3 shooting (all 3-pointers), two assists, one steal, and most importantly, no turnovers in 11 minutes of action.
"I think the biggest thing was just going in there and being confident and playing as hard as I can," White said. "Just making sure I play good defense and distribute the ball to everyone else. I have such good teammates and they're all so good that they make your job a lot easier. So my mindset was just going in there and playing as hard as a I can and giving Kendall a little bit of rest."
White is also responsible for two of the loudest roars to emerge from the Smith Center crowd this season with his first-half 3-pointers in each of the last two games.
"It gives you a huge burst of energy on defense, that's for sure," White said of the fans' response to his treys. "It's pretty exciting. I think they like to see the short white boy go out and hit a shot or something like that, so I understand that."
Marshall has helped out with advice and direction to make sure White is aware of his surroundings and knows where he needs to be at any given time. The sophomore starter believes that White is "doing a great job of stepping up to the challenge."
"He hasn't seemed nervous at all," Marshall said. "He goes out there and he plays his game. He's not afraid to take shots – not always the best one – but he's out there playing basketball and you have to give him full credit for that."
White's statistics may not seem all that impressive, but they are exactly what UNC needs when he enters the game. Every player serves a role and White's is to provide Marshall with a few bench rests without hurting the team. So far, so good.