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For everything he did in putting together one of the finest all-around seasons in North Carolina high school boys basketball history — and becoming the first three-time Wilson Times Boys Basketball Player of the Year— Greenfield School senior Coby White will quickly point out what he didn’t do.
“I set three goals and I completed two of the three. It’s still good but the third one was the most important to me but things don’t always go the way you want them to,” said White, referring the Knights’ loss to Fayetteville Trinity Christian Academy in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A championship game. “But I feel like I had an outstanding senior year. It was, kind of like a good year for me,” the 6-foot-3 guard added, in kind of an understatement.
One of his three goals was to be a McDonald’s All-American and he did that, becoming the first player from Wilson County or his native Wayne County to attain that honor.
White, a three-time NCISAA 1-A All-State selection and three-time player of the year in Greenfield’s 1-A Coastal Plains Independent Conferencer. He also repeated as the Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year and was named to the MaxPreps All-America team. He is a good bet to be a repeat selection to The Associated Press All-State team and is the favorite to named the AP Men’s Player of the Year when the squad is announced next week.
White, who played in the 41st annual McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta on Wednesday, has been selected to play in another premier national all-star game in the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, New York, next Sunday, April 8.
All the accomplishments and honors that White has attained has come as no surprise to Greenfield head coach Rob Salter, who saw promise in the skinny freshman from Goldsboro three years ago.
“We talk about the time about how we met right here by the pad (in the Greenfield gym) and I said, ‘Coby, you have a chance to be really special if you do one thing — and that’s work hard,’” Salter recalled. “He took that to another level. He bought into it and he’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. The hard work’s paid off. I tell him all the time that this is just the beginning. It’s going to be fun to see what happens.”
White said that as he pushed himself, the results came.
“Whenever he told me that before the season, I worked but I didn’t work as hard as I could have been,” White said. “Then I saw the potential that I had that just pushed me to work harder. Then I started growing into my body and I started developing more and more and the more my confidence grew, the better I played.”
For the record, White averaged 30.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 3.2 steals per game as he helped the Knights to a 25-9 record. His 1,055 points ranks third all-time in North Carolina boys basketball history after scoring a state-record 1,069 points as a junior. Along the way White became the state’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing the 3,307 career points of Eastern Alamance’s JamesOn Curry (2000-2004) and finishing his high school career with 3,511 points. That goal was also on White’s list for his senior season but individual records or honors were never his primary focus, said Salter.
“Everything he did was to win,” Salter said. “If he scored 45, everything was to win. Very rarely did he put 45 points up against teams that we dominated. If you see his big games, they were against the teams that were big games for us. He’s going to do everything he can for his team to win and that’s why he did that.”
White’s season scoring total includes the 119 points he netted in three games in the John Wall Invitational in Raleigh just after Christmas, breaking the tournament record of 118 set by Garner’s Donald Williams in 1990. Like Williams, White will play for the North Carolina Tar Heels as the No. 19 recruit nationally in the class of 2018.
White posted six triple-doubles during the season and scored more than 40 points in a game seven times, including his season-high 50 points in a win over Wayne Country Day in his hometown in the final regular-season game Feb. 2.
White said that he never thought about his individual numbers during games.
“ Not really, I was going out there and playing ball just like I go anywhere else and play ball,” he said. “I was just doing it to win and I was going to do whatever I had to do to win and just go out and play. It was great but sometimes if you take an L and score all those points, it really doesn’t mean anything. If you score 50 points and you lose, that shouldn’t feel good to anybody.
He also proved to be an outstanding teammate and a leader along with fellow senior Elijah McCadden, who repeated as a Times All-Area selection. McCadden, who was an NCISAA 2-A All-State selection as a sophomore at Rocky Mount Academy, said that White even amazed him during games.
“I had to get used to playing with somebody like that when I first got here because I was always the main player,” said the 6-5 wing who has signed with Georgia Southern. “He’s a really good player and he surprises me when he gets to the basket through a lane or something I didn’t even see. I was, like, how did you get through there? It’s just really fun because he’s a competitor and he just brings the best out of everybody — the other team and us, too.”
“It’s kind of a storybook career, honestly, with all the stuff he’s done,” Salter said of White. “I’m very proud of him.”