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If there’s something you want to know about her son, Bonita White can tell you.
The first thing I wanted to know from Coby White’s mother is where he gets his unbelievable work ethic. Blessed with an abundance of talent, White’s drive to get better is why he went from a talented sophomore at Greenfield School to one of the top players in the class of 2018 who is headed to the University of North Carolina.
“His dad worked really hard,” Bonita White said of her late husband, Donald, who died of cancer last August but whose spirit has been with his youngest son throughout an unbelievable senior year that was capped Monday by being awarded the 2018 Tom Ham Athlete of the Year Award as presented by The Wilson Times as well as having his Greenfield jersey retired.
“Something we’ve always told our kids when they were really young, we didn’t care what it is they chose to do in life as long as they did it the very best that they could do. That’s where that came from. My husband’s example was if you want to be a ditch-digger, make sure you’re the best ditch-digger there is!”
While it’s unclear what Coby White’s skills as a ditch-digger would be, it’s very clear that if that’s what he wanted to do, he would work hard to make it happen.
“He just makes you feel so good about hard work and dedication,” Knights head coach Rob Salter said. “He’s just so driven and so focused, with everything he’s been through, you would never know.”
White is happiest when he’s in the gym, working on his game. He admits that he can’t even tell you the number of hours he’s spent driving himself to be just a little bit better each time he goes on the court. That drive borders on obsession, by White’s own admission.
“During the summer it’s crazy because I’m always in the gym,” he said. “I constantly want to get in the gym. It’s almost like I’m becoming addicted to getting better. That’s what I call it. It’s like an addiction for me to get better. I need to get better every day.”
But his mother isn’t worried about her son’s “addiction.”
“He’s all right playing basketball,” she said. “He does do stuff with his friends. He works out about five days a week and he takes Wednesdays off and Saturdays. He has kid time, fun time. He keeps his grades up. He’s very organized, which is amazing.”
Certainly, there’s something this 18-year-old does or does not do that drives his mother a little crazy from time to time, right? Maybe like leaving his room in a mess or not making his bed?
“He makes his bed up every morning before he leaves,” Bonita White said. “He vacuums, he keeps his bathroom clean. I’m just very blessed to have a child like him.”
Almost as if on cue, Coby White walked by, heading toward a trashcan with some cups he had collected from one of the banquet tables in the Greenfield gym. Being the best busboy he could be.
White assures that his life is not all basketball.
“Yeah, I’m definitely going to check out a bunch of movies, especially the new Avengers movie that came out,” he said. “That was a great movie and Black Panther. I definitely take time out to do stuff besides basketball. I still want to be a kid sometimes too.”
We might all agree with Mrs. White that, for those of us who got to watch her son play these last four years at Greenfield, we’ve been blessed, too. It’s not often that talent combines with a fierce drive to succeed, like Coby White has. He defied the trend of Times Athlete of the Year awards going to multi-sport athletes but he’s hardly the first single-sport star to take home the gigantic trophy.
Elm City High hoops legend John Virgil, who also went on to play at UNC, and Greg Artis, a Fike High track star in 1977, were only known for one sport. Fike’s Sabrina Thompson, the only two-time Athlete of the Year, was one of the best female track athletes in the state in the mid-1990s.
While an athlete who excels in more than one endeavor typically has an upper-hand in consideration for the Times Athlete of the Year, it’s mostly about true greatness — a quality that transcends sheer talent.
Yes, we’ve all been a little bit blessed getting to watch Coby White play.