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UNC superstar has Pitt County bloodline

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North Carolina's Coby White (2) drives to the basket against Duke's Zion Williamson (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

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BY NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The gem that is Pitt County basketball seems to have limitless facets, casting gleam in every direction at the moment, even on one of the game’s biggest stages.

The Wednesday morning before March Madness begins is an annual day of anticipation that college hoops fans would probably prefer to just skip in order to get to those two marathon days of NCAA tournament bliss on Thursday and Friday, which then spill into a weekend also filled to the rim with hoops.

ESPN, naturally, was cashing in on that last full day of hype earlier this week, running a panel segment on SportsCenter to address this question: Who would you most want on your team for a March Madness run, excluding Duke's now global megastar, Zion Williamson?

Pitt County’s basketball roots were in the answer, the same county that last weekend crowned two more high school state champions.

The first person named by the experts was UNC's electric and acrobatic guard Coby White, whose late father was a Greenville hoops fixture during another era of local high school hardwood greatness in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Donald ‘Doc’ White starred first at G.R. Whitfield High School before transferring to Stokes-Pactolus as a senior and becoming one of the first black athletes in the county to make such a move for athletics. He went on to play at N.C. Central.

Although Doc White’s youngest son has reached one of the game’s pinnacles as a mere college freshman — Coby White’s top-seeded Tar Heels take on Washington today in the second round of the NCAA tournament — his dad has been gone a few years now, and the loss is felt by everyone in the family to this day.

“He was amazing. Unbelievable,” said Greenville native and resident Swanza Deluze, the sister of Doc White, who remembers her brother not only as an athlete but also as the father and mentor. Doc White shaped the personality and game of his now superstar son, whose full name is Alec Jacoby White. and who was born and raised in Goldsboro and later attended Greenfield School in Wilson.

Doc White relocated from Pitt County to Goldsboro in 1991 following the passing of his wife’s mother. A manufacturing technician, the elder White eventually retired from Reynolds in Kinston.

According to Deluze, his son has simply grown into a whole new version of his dad.

“My brother was an outstanding basketball player and when I see Jacoby play now, I see so much of my brother in him,” she said. “He could shoot, he could run and was fast like Jacoby. And there were three of them at that time, and they were all three competitors from different areas of the county — my brother, Donald White (Stokes), Ed Stokes (Bethel) and William Shivar (Belvoir).”

Deluze remembers when her brother was being courted by the basketball coach at Stokes to transfer from Whitfield his senior year.

“He talked about it with my parents and said, ‘Sure, I’ll go,’ and he played for them and had a phenomenal year,” Deluze said, adding she still has vivid memories of her brother’s basketball beginnings in the yard. “The coach at the time was very interested, and he was the first black kid to have ever done anything like that in Pitt County. So it was kind of big. He managed to up his game to the point that everybody knew him.”

White lost his second battle with cancer in 2015, and his youngest son has been open about using his bond with his father, and the loss of him, as constant motivation in his rise to stardom. He started and still uses the social media hashtag #FMF, which means “For my father.”

The younger White already has laid claim to superstar status in the game. Even the story of his father’s death drew some national media attention because at the time, Coby White was a top prep recruit poised to make his college decision. This week in the buildup to UNC’s Friday tournament tip-off against Iona, CBS revisited the story of the bond between the late father and his son.

Members of the tight-knit White family witnessed that relationship up close.

“All they had to do was look at each other, and you could see the love in their faces,” Deluze said. “He felt that way about all of his children, but one thing that keeps coming back to me is at the free throw line, there was one thing that his dad always told him: ‘One motion,’ and he just locked that into his mind because of his father. It always takes Jacoby back to where he needs to be when he may not be having a good night at the free throw line.

“All of the things that you see Coby doing, my brother taught him the basics of it.”

The family has enjoyed plenty of success in and out of sports. Doc White’s daughter, Tia White, is an executive director of technology for a financial firm and was featured in a Forbes.com story about powerful women overcoming adversity. He has two other sons, Greenville resident Shawn Rogers and William R. White, who is a graduate student and grad assistant coach under Wes Miller at UNC Greensboro.

Coby’s White’s dazzling rookie season in Chapel Hill so far has included starts in all 33 games. He entered the tournament second on the team in scoring and was a second team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. Earlier this month against Boston College, he surpassed Michael Jordan on the Tar Heels' all-time freshman scoring list.

Before even arriving in Chapel Hill, however, White was named North Carolina Mr. Basketball, was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for N.C. and also the Associated Press Player of the Year after becoming the state's all-time leading prep scorer at Greenfield School, where he averaged two assists shy of a triple-double as a senior.

After that, he played in the McDonald's All-American Game, then was named to the all-tournament team after leading the United States U18 squad to a gold medal at the FIBA Under-18 Americas Championship in Canada.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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