Early this month, Jake White was playing in the Final Four.
By the end of the month, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward had decided he’d continue his college career at UNO.
White was a regular member of Wichita State’s playing rotation last season as a sophomore, averaging 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 46.8 percent from the field in an average of 10.9 minutes.
But he said he was looking for an expanded role and liked what he saw of UNO.
“I took my official visit and just kind of fell in love with it, love the city, loved all the facilities and everything the school had to offer,” White said. “The resources are just endless, and the culture down there is something that attracted me. I love the coaching staff and the guys — they all just want to win.”
UNO must have indeed made an impression. White said he also considered South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Valparaiso and Murray State — some of the top teams in their mid-major conferences.
“We’re real excited about Jake,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “He’s a good kid from a good family, and he’s a good player with a lot of experience.
“Having someone who has played in the Final Four will give us a player perspective on the floor that we have not had to this point.”
Wichita State announced in mid-April that White, from Chaska, Minn., would transfer at the end of the semester.
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“When we found out (he was transferring) we were in a car, went down and saw him ASAP,” Hansen said. “And he and his dad came here and visited and really liked what they saw and where we were heading.”
White must sit out next season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. In 2015-16, his senior season, he would be able to play in the NCAA tournament again, should UNO qualify in its first season of eligibility after transitioning to Division I.
“It is a sacrifice to not have that chance again until my senior year, but in the long run it will pay off,” White said.
White also said he looks at sitting out a season as a positive.
“A couple of coaches I talked to were concerned about me having to sit out, that it would be tough,” he said. “But I look at it as another year to get bigger and stronger so that I can finish out my junior and senior year better, and it will give me a chance to get acclimated to the system and the coach’s style. I almost prefer it this way.”
UNO went just 11-20 overall but played well late in the season and finished a surprising sixth in the Summit at 6-10.
“I know they just made the transition to D-I and weren’t predicted to win many games, but they finished in the middle of the pack,” White said. “That shows me that what they’re doing is working and it’s still in progress. I wanted to be a part of it.”
White scored a career-high 11 points against both Bradley and Illinois State and had a career-high 10 rebounds against Evansville last season for 30-9 Wichita State.
He averaged 6.5 points and 1.5 rebounds while making 6 of 9 from the field in two regular-season games against Creighton, but went 0 for 6 in scoring two points and getting two rebounds against the Bluejays in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game.
His playing time dropped during the NCAA tournament, though he scored five points in nine minutes against top-ranked Gonzaga, when his tip-in at the first-half buzzer gave the Shockers a 36-31 lead. He played three minutes against eventual champion Louisville in the national semifinals, scoring two points.
When Wichita State announced White would transfer, Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said in a press release: “We wish him nothing but the best in his pursuit of a situation where he is more of a focal point. ... His résumé is pretty strong. He wants to be the guy taking the shots, and I respect that.”
White played in 21 games as a freshman, averaging 2.0 points and 2.2 rebounds.
“It was great to be a part of a Final Four run, but I’m just looking to play a bigger role on a team,” White said.
Hansen said White knows UNO guard Marcus Tyus from both having played in the same AAU organization — though not on the same team — in Minnesota. He’s also familiar with walk-on forward Mike Rostampour of St. Cloud, Minn.
As a high school senior, White averaged 23.3 points and 11.8 rebounds to earn second-team all-state honors. He had been recruited out of high school by Colorado State, Texas-El Paso and Navy.
“I think he’s going to be right there with some of the better players at his position in the Summit League,” Hansen said. “We wouldn’t have recruited him if we didn’t think he was as good as, or better than, other players in our league.”
Hansen said he’d like to see White play the power forward position for the Mavericks. White, who considers rebounding his strength, said he considers himself a power forward capable of playing the post if necessary.
“I’m working on trying to be more explosive,” White said.
Adding White bumps UNO’s scholarship total to the Division I maximum of 13. With White sitting out, the Mavs will have only five players taller than 6-5 this season, though John Karhoff, Matt Hagerbaumer, Rostampour, Simon Krych and incoming freshman Rylan Murry are all 6-7 or 6-8.
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