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.
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
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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