he unknown doesn’t faze Andrew White, but he likes sticking to what he knows. That means whipping up a plate of white rice and tilapia when he can, trying mightily to avoid the perils of fruits and vegetables. When he returns home to Richmond, Virginia, that means he’s not long to endear himself again to his five pet turtles. And on the basketball court — the only location in the last four years he can soundly call home — sticking to what White knows means progressing through the same routine before every practice and game. He throws on compression boots and dips into an ice bath after working out on game days. He’s one
MIKE HOPKINS SU COACH
of the first to arrive to practice, stretching on his own before looping himself into shooting drills with the other guards. Much like everything else with White, there aren’t any frills to it. He features the diligence and discipline of an aged soul, caged inside the freakishly athletic body of a 23-year-old, 6-foot-7 basketball player. “I like for things to be consistent,” White said, “so that’s kind of how I am, generally. Just doing something that I’m familiar with.” But the biggest constant in White’s college career has been change. Tangled in his web of consistencies is a U-Haul truck and a trio of collegiate jerseys. White wears the scarlet letter of being a double transfer, spending two seasons each at Kansas and Nebraska before selecting Syracuse as his third and final home. Now the fifth-year senior wants to dispel any notion that he might be a damaged good, or that he’s unable to integrate himself into the culture of a new team. White’s
temperament appears to weave seamlessly into the fabric of an SU team inexperienced with one another, a team that will lean on White for the consistency that’s eluded his career. “He’s a pro player, a pro person,” Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “The way he approaches everything. He’s humble. He’s respectful. “Everything that you’d want your son to be.” White’s decision to leave the Cornhuskers after withdrawing from the NBA Draft last spring was highly publicized, and even more scrutinized. The ensuing 62day race for White’s services only amplified that. Finally, it was SU that emerged as White’s landing spot after weeks of jockeying with Miami, Michigan State and Virginia Commonwealth. White’s addition to the Orange is integral given that the team is without its three top scorers from last season. Nebraska’s year ended in the Big 10 tournament. White led the Cornhuskers with nearly six rebounds per
game and finished second on the team with 16.6 appoints per game. While Syracuse kept its season alive, White decided his days at Nebraska were numbered. On last year’s SU squad, White’s 16.6 points per game would’ve placed second to only Michael Gbinije’s 17.5. So even without playing a single minute in an Orange jersey, White stands as SU’s most proven scoring option on a team without Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson. “Every time I get to shoot against him,” sophomore Tyler Lydon said, “he just pushes everyone to get better. “Especially a shooter. He can really shoot the ball.” Lydon and White have been known to engage in “crazy” shooting competitions, ones that White said you can’t keep up in unless you’re shooting 90 percent. White’s calling card has always been his jump shot, but just in the last few months at Syracuse, it’s end-of-practice free-throw competitions where he’s truly made a name for himself. The parameters are pretty straightforward: Everyone needs to make consecutive free throws for practice to end. When White stepped up to the line several weeks ago, he remembers forward Doyin Akintobi-Adey-eye bark out, “Come on, Uncle Drew!” With smiles spread across their faces, teammates say the moniker, still permanently affixed to White, is a testament to his maturation, and of course, his age. Fellow fifth-year, double-transfer senior John Gillon even gets in on the name-calling, and Jim Boeheim brought it up in his Atlantic Coast Conference Media Day press conference. All that lauded experience has given White enough perspective to laugh off his teammates’ jabs. He’s found the silver lining in the backhanded compliment.
“I’ve always had the temperament of an old man, so I’ve always been Uncle Drew,” White said. “It’s kind of crazy. I try to say, ‘That’s not me, I don’t act like that.’ “But everywhere I’ve been, everybody kind of picks up the same vibe from me.” The news doesn’t evoke any bit of surprise in White’s father, Andy White, who said his eldest son has long displayed the maturity of someone beyond his years. White grew up a “babbler,” Andy said, but spoke less as he grew. Admittedly, White is one of the quieter heads in Syracuse’s locker room. Among plenty of young, boisterous personalities, White limits most of his talking to moments he can push the group to a consensus. He speaks deliberately, enunciating each word with a drip of his southern drawl. There’s no irregularities or built-in space for “um’s” or “uh’s.” White disseminates the message he wants to, speaking comprehensively about others in addition to himself. “If you didn’t know he was a twentysomething-year-old kid,” Andy White said, “you’d probably think otherwise.” Almost as if he were a coach or recruiting coordinator, White’s vast experiences over just four seasons have left him with enough scenarios and anecdotes to relate to every teammate that comes his way.
Like three other players on the roster, White transferred to SU. Like Paschal Chukwu, White sat out for a year after transferring from Kansas to Nebraska. Like Tyus Battle, Matthew Moyer and Taurean Thompson, White was once a touted freshman after being labeled a top-100 recruit. For those that don’t share a biography line with White, he’s unafraid to open up about himself. About his pregame routine, his tilapia and rice lunch, and of course his beloved turtles: Miller, Dame, Mo, Tre and Turtle. “If you want to be a college athlete, you want to be Andrew White,” Matthew Moyer, one of Syracuse’s handful of first-year players, said. “… I don’t give people respect like that.” Four days before Syracuse’s first exhibition tips off, White is sitting in a chair being interviewed by a local television station at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. He dispatches long-winded answers about his upbring and wanting to play college basketball. He looks ahead to this season, trying to repeat the magic of last year’s run through March. When White finishes, the reporter shakes his hand and exclaims, “You’re a pro! That was really impressive.” White smiles, accepts the compliment he’s heard plenty of times before and heads off to his next media obligation. Three schools later, almost five collegiate basketball seasons later, he’s done all this before. What he really hasn’t done is fit, and Syracuse is his last shot to prove he can — that a career marred by movement can be stabilized in one outstanding season. “I’m trying to be a testament that everybody who double transfers isn’t crazy,” White said. “That everybody who double transfers isn’t running from something. “You’re just trying to navigate what the best path for you is.”