White and his teammates are in the bluegrass state for today's 7 p.m. (CT) meeting between the surging Wildcats and the searching Rebels. Ole Miss has the better overall record, but Kentucky has had a better conference season.
Ole Miss is 18-8 overall and 4-8 in Southeastern Conference action, while UK is 15-10 and 9-3. The NCAA Tournament figures to be in Kentucky's immediate future provided the Cats win another couple of games. Ole Miss needs SEC wins to get there, and an upset of UK tonight would get the Rebels at least back into the conversation with two straight home games upcoming.
White has played in 20 games this season with no starts. He's shown some signs of real potential, just as the scouting report on him before the season had indicated. His play at times has been fearless, such as being one of the few on the team to step up and compete against Mississippi State in a 20-point loss in Starkville. It actually looked like he was having fun playing basketball for the Rebels, which was somewhat amazing given the circumstances. He scored nine points that day.
The Greensburg, La., native with an outgoing personality on and off the court, is averaging 7.7 minutes, 2.7 points, 1.5 rebounds and has eight blocks. Dwayne Curtis, the senior center, says White continues to improve.
"For him not to get to play as much, he still brings that same energy. And that's good," Curtis said. "He helps a lot when he's in there. He's a big guy. He's long. He runs the court very well. He can score. I practice with him a lot. I know how good he can be."
White says he's learned from the veteran big men on his team.
"Just to stay focused and keep your head up during the game," he said of what he's picked up from Curtis, Jermey Parnell, and Kenny Williams. "Keep playing hard. I'm young. I know I'm still learning."
Learning. That's the word White continues to use as he moves through his freshman season.
"Offensively I'm still learning the sets and plays. Sometimes I miss things, like miss a screen. I'm going to play defense. That's not a problem. But learning the entire offense takes time."
White's playing time increased after the loss at Tennessee in early January when Jermey Parnell turned an ankle. He scored a season-high 12 points with six rebounds in 21 minutes against the LSU Tigers, the Rebels' next game which was a UM win at home. White was 4-of-5 from the field and 4-of-4 on free throws in the game. He blocked a career-high three shots against Florida, also a win at home.
About three weeks ago, White suffered a strained muscle in his side that limited his practice and playing time even more. He seems to be just about fully recovered from that.
Before the SEC games began, White played 14 minutes in the Rebels' home win over Troy and had six points and six rebounds along with two dunks in that game. White was learning then and he continues to learn today.
"During the preseason I learned a lot from AK by going hard everyday in practice," he said. "So I'm not nervous in the games. I'm ready to play at all times."
Andy Kennedy said White has continued to progress. He's just at a position where there are several much older veterans ahead of him.
"He's caught in a little bit of a circumstance where he's playing behind three seniors," AK said. "Right now it's a situation where those guys know a little more."
But White's ready if called upon, and he's learning all the while.
Freshman center White continues to progress
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