White's Gold

Terrico White's walls are filling up with honors and awards.

A jet-lagged White said the food in New Zealand was bad but winning the gold for the USA U-19 team was good. Very good, in fact.

The rising Rebel sophomore guard, last year's Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, just returned from a month-long experience of tryouts and games that led up to his team winning the FIBA U-19 Championship in Auckland, New Zealand last weekend.

White said he hopes the effects won't soon wear off.

Maybe the fatigue, unpleasant memories of the food, and a sore throat he caught while there will. But anything else he brought back to the Mid-South he hopes stays with him.

"The main thing I got out of it was improving my leadership," said White, who as a true freshman actually had to step up for the Rebels and take over at point guard when fellow guards all around him were being eliminated from competition due to injury. "I believe it helped me be more vocal."

But there was more. He played for Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon, who led Team USA, and said the Panther head coach was intent on his squad being as good as it could be as defenders.

"His main focus is defense, so playing for him makes you play defense and want to have fun playing defense," White said. "He really helped me get better with my defense during the time I was there."

The team's tryouts were held in Colorado Springs in mid-June. After the 12 on the roster were picked and some practice sessions were held, the team played July 2 through July 12 in New Zealand.

USA went 9-0 and was only seriously threatened a couple of times. An 81-77 semi-final win against Croatia, a come from behind victory, was the closest call for the squad.

In the finals, USA beat Greece 88-80, a team that six days earlier they had also defeated by an 85-69 count.

"When the clock hit zero, everybody just started celebrating," the soft-spoken, reserved White said of the title game. "It was the first time for (USA) U-19 to win it since 1991."

That was when the 19-year-old Memphis Craigmont High School product was just a year old. So it meant a lot to all concerned.

"In the first couple of days in Colorado, we got really cool," he said of the bonding the team did at that time. "After that, the only thing we needed to do was carry it onto the court. We did that and kept winning games."

The 6-foot-5 White started three of the team's nine games and was instrumental in the Americans' success. He averaged 7.4 points and 2.6 rebounds through those nine contests, with six blocked shots and four steals.

"I think I did pretty good," he said. "My focus was really just to get better on defense. That was the main focus going over there for me. My offense was pretty straight."

White said it was mostly all about basketball during the trip, mainly because the players couldn't really get out and do much else.

"It was raining the whole time, and it was real cold," he said, since it's currently winter in New Zealand. "Some players were getting sick with the flu. We didn't really do anything else, just practice and play games."

Practice, play games, then win it all and head back home to the United States. And for White, more specifically, to Memphis and Oxford.

But there was that one special item he brought back that he will keep. Make that a couple more items.

"I plan on framing it," White said of the gold medal, "along with the jersey they gave us and some other stuff."

And all the while filling up more and more of the space on those walls.

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