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Capital return all right for White


It may have been a bitter pill for supporters of Leopards to swallow but to see John White joining Robert Youngblood at Kinder London Towers was a double whammy in favour of the Crystal Palace outfit.

35-year-old White won back-to-back league titles and a National Cup when with the Leopards from 1996 to ‘98. He also won the Trophy when he moved onto Manchester Giants for a season in 1998/99.

However, he has been away from the BBL for two years, playing in France and in Lithuania. From Manchester, he played for Strasbourg in France’s Pro A. Last season he spent at Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania, before moving to Brest in the French Pro B and finally to Nancy.

“It was a great experience for me,” explained White. “In my first year in France, I did well and led the league in scoring and the team did very well. We finished fifth and then made it to the semi-finals of the play-offs. The only flaw in that year for me was getting hurt.

“Last year, I went to Lithuania and it started out a little bumpy and ended bumpy too. I got released over there and I went to a Pro B team in France called Brest and I played there and was blessed enough to get moved up to a Pro A team, where I finished out the season. That team also made the play-offs for the first time – we lost in the first round, but it was still a great achievement.”

Clearly, life in France treated White well, but his spell in Lithuania was not such a success.

“Lithuania is gloomy,” he remarked. “The country is not that rich. I was surprised by the food, because the food was excellent and pretty cheap. As for the lifestyle, I can’t speak too much about it – I didn’t really hang out anyway. 

“But it was cold too – there’s not even any comparison to England – you’re talking about icy and snowy streets and it gets dark at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was a culture shock for me. Although there were some good things that happened there, I regret even going there sometimes.”

Lithuania is one of many places around the world that John White has played – he also had spells in Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Venezuela before joining the Leopards in 1996. But of all the places he has been, he knows where he likes to be most of all.

“I love London. As far as the city and the life and everyone speaking English goes, you can’t beat London, there’s nowhere else like it in the rest of the world!”

But it’s not just the city - the situation that Towers find themselves in went a long way in tempting White back to Britain.

“The Euroleague is a major attraction - that was great bait for me. Every player wants to better themselves and having a good year in the Euroleague can’t do anything but help you. Also, playing against that kind of competition is great. Basketball players should always want to play at the top level and if you’re not going to be in the NBA, then you might as well try to be in the top level in Europe.

“I think if we stay healthy, then I believe we are going to surprise a few people. I believe we will win some games that people don’t think we should win. Hopefully, we can do well in the Euroleague and that will be good for England and every player playing in England too. If we do well, the whole country does well.”

Certainly Euroleague ambitions are strong not only for White, but for the Towers as a whole. However, White’s ambitions extend to domestic competitions as well and he knows that expectations will be high for him and the team to achieve.

“I don’t have anything to prove as far as personal accolades, like getting Player of the Year. I’m not here to do that, this year. I really want to win everything that we can win and I believe that we have a team that can do it, if we stay focussed and don’t get injured. We have a great bunch of guys and that’s the key – when you’ve got a great core of guys and everyone gets along and works hard and there’s no bickering, that’s more important.

“I’m pretty pleased with where I’m at right now. I don’t feel like I’m at my top form yet, which is good, because I don’t want to be in my top form at the beginning of the season, otherwise I could peak out.”

Certainly White impressed in his first two games of the season for Towers, bagging 52 points on the opening weekend. His former Head Coach, Billy Mims, described him as a “game winner”, but with Terrell Myers on the Towers’ roster too, the team is loaded with firepower.

So, when it comes to the dying seconds, who is going to be the guy to step up and win the crucial close games?

“It’s going to depend on the situation,” White stated reasonably. “And it’s going to depend on who’s hot that night and what the coach does. I don’t think it will be Terrell every night and it won’t be me every night. 

“We also have Brett [Eppehimer] and it’s his first year in the English league, but Brett can shoot the ball. Jeff [Kent] can play too. We have some guys on the team that can shoot the basketball. Terrell is a great finisher and a great shooter and scorer. Against Leicester he was having his first game back and he was hot, but Brett was hot and Jeff was hot too, while I didn’t really shoot the ball too well. So, you have got to go to the hot hands, whoever that is.”

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