D.J. White - Rising To The Challenge
Feb. 12, 2007
The 2006-07 season has been one of new experiences for junior D.J. White. Not only has he had to adjust his game to a new head coach, but along with that has come a new style of play. After missing the majority of last season with foot injuries, the 6-9 forward has also had to adapt to his new role as both a leader on and off the floor as well as the go-to player in the post for the Hoosiers. By all accounts, White has risen to the challenge.
"It's difficult, adjusting to a new style that you're not used to, but you get over it," White said of adapting to the changes that first-year IU head coach Kelvin Sampson has implemented since taking the reins last spring. "Basketball is basketball no matter who the coach is or the way you play it. It's still a game, and we adjusted to it."
White played in just five games during his sophomore season after breaking his left foot in an exhibition game against Saint Joseph's (Ind.) on Nov. 4, 2005, and suffered a second injury to the foot against Ohio State on Jan. 7, 2006, effectively ending his season. The 2005 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, who was tabbed a Freshman All-American by both rivals.com and collegeinsiders.com, he decided not to follow former IU head coach Mike Davis back home to Alabama following last season and has returned to his former form under Sampson's tutelage.
However, as with any injury, there were some mental and physical hurdles to overcome before White played this season.
"Early in the season, it took me a while to get back to my regular self, into a rhythm," he explained. "I was basically out for two years because I couldn't do anything in the summer. It was difficult, but I overcame it with a lot of hard work.
"I did (think about the injury) earlier in the season," he continued. "It's just something that I couldn't get out of my mind. You break something in your body twice, you're going to think about it."
As he has come back from injury, White is establishing himself as one of the premier low-post threats in the Big Ten. He has matched his career high with 23 points twice already in 2006-07, and the junior has also pulled down a career-best 12 rebounds three times this year. For his play, White was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in his career on Jan. 22, and he has recorded double-doubles on two occasions this season.
Part of that success has come through the way the Hoosiers run their offense, but it also comes from his adjustment to a leadership role that he did not have in each of his previous two seasons at IU.
"My role on the team has changed a lot," White said. "I guess I'm the leader that everybody looks to in certain situations. I'm the main guy through the offense, so that's changed. My freshman year I was pretty much the second option behind Bracey (Wright), and last year I didn't play that much. Just being a leader and having other people follow me, that's probably been the biggest adjustment."
In addition to his role as a leader, White has also been challenged by Sampson to become a complete player.
"He's challenged me in many different ways," the junior said. "He's made me be a better defensive player, a better rebounder, just stressing everyday in practice going to the boards, playing hard and being a complete player."
The makeup of this Hoosier squad also made it easy for White and his teammates to adjust to the newness Sampson, his staff and his style of play.
"It's not really a hard adjustment," he said. "He's the head coach. If he says we're not doing something, we need to do it. If he says we're not playing hard, we have to play harder. We listen to whatever he says. That's the good thing about this team, we have no selfish guys on this team, no egos, so we listen to whatever he says."
It is that team dynamic, in addition to the draw of playing in front of a crazed crowd in Assembly Hall during the season, which makes White glad that he is a Hoosier.
"The best thing about being a Hoosier is just to be on this basketball team with these teammates," he said. "Since I've been here, I've had a lot of good friends that I'll have for life. It's just been fun being with these guys every day, traveling, joking around and having fun."
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