White eyes NBA again after first pro stint in PBA
ANTIPOLO—A month after going undrafted in the NBA, James White’s basketball journey brought him overseas to Manila, thousands of miles away from home.
As a dewy-eyed 22-year-old fresh out of college, White didn’t know what to expect as he took on the world.
All he needed was a chance and the opportunity was his for the taking as an import for Mahindra in the PBA.
“Like I said before, them welcoming me with open arms as a 22-year-old, that right there said itself. It’s just a blessing that they gave me an opportunity to lead them on and off the court,” a spry White told reporters after Mahindra lost to Meralco, 105-82, in the quarterfinals Saturday.
“And for me being a 22-year-old that means a lot to me. That they gave me the ball to lead this team, it’s just a blessing.”
The Enforcer made their first playoffs with White. And even though their maiden post-eliminations stint was short-lived, White will be taking home an invaluable experience with him.
“Every loss when it comes to end the season is emotional. But I think the emotional part was just I built a bond with the teammates and coaches and even management, of them taking that chance of bringing a 22-year-old out here,” White said. “First professional outing. Just giving me that opportunity is a blessing from God and I’m just thankful for them, I’m sad to see it end. I’m just thankful for all the opportunities they gave me.”
“I don’t think of it as an individual accomplishment, I look at it as a team. It started with coach Chris (Gavina), his philosophy coming in, which is stay confident no matter what. Give a hundred percent. And all the way down to my teammates, they instill confidence in each other, they believe in each other and we trust the process. That’s what happens, when you trust the process as a team you win,” he said.
Mahindra ended its season with a five-game losing skid, but White still felt the Enforcer’s bowed out as winners.
“Not at all. I think it’s a blessing, the first playoff berth. I don’t think that’s an underachievement at all,” White said.
“First playoff berth, they never accomplished that [before] so I don’t think that’s an underachievement. I think that’s an accomplishment and they just got to keep building off of it.”
A year older and more than two months after his first taste of playing professional basketball, White is ready to reach for his ultimate goal for the second time.
“Hopefully, God-willing, play in the NBA. That’s my main goal. You know but whatever opportunity presents itself that’d be fine. But my main goal is to play in the NBA,” he said.
“I have a lot of teams but right now I can’t mention it. But I have quite a few teams looking at me.”
Most imports come and go. Some get another tour of duty, others land more lucrative offers elsewhere and only few fulfill their NBA dreams.
No matter where White’s basketball journey takes him next, his teammates and coaches will be up-to-date of his whereabouts.
“Right now I don’t know. It’s in God’s hands. I can’t predict the future. But I’ll be fine. I’ll be going back to the US. Going back home, visit family first,” he said.
“Absolutely I’ll be keeping in touch with my old teammates. This is a family. They told me that right when I got here and I believe that ’til the day I leave. We’re a family.”
As the buzzer sounded Saturday, White turned emotional as he headed back to the locker room.
It took some time before White came out of the dugout wearing a big smile on his face while saying his goodbyes to his teammates.
He was stopped by reporters on his way out of the arena and as he answered questions from the Filipino media for the last time, his teammates just had to give him a good pat on the back as they passed by.
“I was just telling them that I was just thankful to have them as teammates slash brothers. Like I said before, they opened to me. I’m a new guy, youngest import in the PBA. Them embracing me like that it means a lot. I can’t describe the feelings that I was going through but it was emotional because I was thankful for them and the opportunity they gave me.”