LINCOLN — Andrew White is first to admit he was a pain in the rump for Nebraska to recruit.
The Kansas basketball transfer took 102 days in the summer of 2014 to pick NU over Maryland and Notre Dame. His decision came just one week before the start of fall classes.
“I’m glad I like him,” Husker coach Tim Miles said, smiling, “or we may not have been able to hold in there.”
White, known for his high character and good nature, understands the stress he caused Miles. But he doesn’t apologize for it. Business is business.
“Going through the recruiting process the second time,” White said, “you know when you sign on the dotted line that you are pretty much like property.
“I wanted to see the coaches sweat a little bit, and find out just how wanted I was. It was a tough decision because of what was at stake. But I think they feel the hassle was worth it.”
Miles would do it again in a heartbeat to get a player who can produce the way White has in his first season at Nebraska.
The 6-foot-7 junior wing from Richmond, Virginia, is on track to finish the season averaging 17 points and six rebounds a game while shooting 49 percent from the field. That has happened only 10 other times in Husker history, by six men — Dave Hoppen (3), Andre Smith (2), Chuck Jura (2), Eric Piatkowski, Aleks Maric and Stu Lantz.
White also has a chance to join an elite list of Big Ten players who have shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent on free throws.
Only four have done that in the past 20 years. All four — Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner — are in the NBA.
“Andrew’s ability to impact a game has been incredible, and I don’t usually use that word,” Miles said. “But that’s what it is when you look at the sheer numbers in terms of offensive efficiency, high percentages and his rebounding.
“He hadn’t shown those things before. It says a lot about Andrew’s talent and his desire to get better.”
White, with no braggadocio, said he was confident he could produce as a starter.
“I just needed the opportunity to do it,” he said. “So when I came here, and with the coaches here, I could use their help to take my game to the next level.
“It has been good to have a big role on the team, especially in a high-caliber conference.”
The original dream was to play this way at Kansas. And if KU coach Bill Self had his way, White would still be a Jayhawk.
“I wish I could get him back,” Self said by phone from Lawrence, Kansas. “I didn’t want him to leave at all. In hindsight, with the opportunity at Nebraska, I get it. What he has done there is just fabulous.”
Why did Self originally sign the top 50 recruit, who in his first season at KU roomed with Self’s son, Tyler, a Jayhawk walk-on?
“I thought Andrew could shoot, and I thought he was strong,” the coach said. “He’s a ridiculously good rebounder for a guard.”
White might have worked too hard at KU. He often did 300 to 500 push-ups a day besides normal workouts, and was a late-night regular for extra shooting in storied Allen Fieldhouse.
“He got so big and strong here that he played a little stiff,” Self said. “Now, he looks better in terms of flexibility. And his play up there has been unreal.”
White felt the extra work was necessary to get playing time at a position occupied by, among others, three eventual first-round NBA draft picks — Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre.
After two seasons as a reserve, White asked Self for a sit-down.
“I was straight with him,” Self said. “I told him if everybody plays their best, here’s where I see you. Andrew decided he wanted to have a better chance to impact a program.
“The way it’s played out at Nebraska, heck, he could be doing similar things for us maybe. But at that moment, nobody blamed him for leaving.”
White appreciated the straight answers.
“Coach Self knows I gave my all to that program, and it was a place I desperately wanted to play,” he said. “But I wanted to test the waters.”
When White announced he was leaving, Self offered a stunning endorsement, saying White would be welcomed back to Kansas basketball at any time in any capacity.
“We’ve recruited a lot of great kids in regard to character. There’s nobody better than Andrew,” Self said. “We didn’t want to lose him. But we’re so happy about his success. He is one of those great young people who’s going to be ultra-successful in life.”
Upon arriving at Nebraska and sitting out a transfer year, White never took his position for granted or tried to use his Kansas connection for favor in practice.
“Andrew worked like crazy,” Miles said. “He was a bear to stop on the scout team. He could literally demoralize us. He’s not an emotional person outwardly. But there is a ton of competitive fire in him. He’s just a great example for doing things right.”
White could run for mayor, considering the positive impression he has made across campus and at Pinnacle Bank Arena for his interactions with students and the public.
“The whole White family has a regal look about them,” Miles said. “They are a proud family and very strong and supportive. It’s really cool to see. There is a lot of moral fiber there. Andrew exudes that.”
This interview didn’t start until White got details about my recent hip surgery and how my recovery was going. He frequently mingles with people of all ages to ask about their day and well-being.
Where does that come from?
“That’s something put into my bloodstream since I was young,” he said. “Regardless of who you are, our family respects and values everyone. It’s kind of a forgotten art these days with how the world works.
“Everybody has a story and everybody has something that has value. I try to take bits and pieces from everybody I come in contact with.”
White’s grandfather, Andrew White Sr., was a Baptist pastor for more than 50 years.
“He always puts little words of wisdom and quotes in my ear, and tells me to carry myself with charisma yet with humility,” White said. “I want to command respect with how I act, not just how I speak.”
White did that after a recent overtime loss to Ohio State. He came to the interview room and took full blame for the setback, citing his 3 of 17 shooting from the field. What he didn’t reveal was he played with a badly bruised shooting shoulder.
“Anybody can handle media or attention when things are going well,” he said. “When things aren’t going well, your character is what covers for you.”
White’s character traits weren’t the only things passed down through the family. His father, Andrew White Jr., played basketball at Morehouse College in Atlanta and has served as Andrew III’s “shot doctor.”
“He helped me mold my identity,” White said. “He told me early that to play at a high level in college and then in the pros that you have to do something really well. I identified early that my skill as a jump shooter would give me value to be recruited.
“To this day, my dad takes my games and my shooting seriously. He studies all my tapes.”
He comments on them, too.
“Even if there is one second on the shot clock, if my dad sees me falling away on a shot,” White said, “he’ll send a picture to my phone and ask me why I looked that way.”
Whatever the critique, White wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My dad has taken a lot of time off work and gone a lot of miles up the highway and spent a lot of money to help me,” White said. “I give so much credit to him and my mother, and I want to give back to them.”
As Miles has watched White lead Nebraska in scoring, rebounding and producing goodwill for the program this season, the energy expended during the extended recruiting process seems more worth it than ever.
“I could hang on for a player of his talent,” Miles said. “He was somebody we really needed in our program.
“With his length and athleticism, we thought there were other things he could bring besides his shooting. I’m glad we were right.”
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