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A “storybook” senior season for Coby White was capped by an unforgettable night at Greenfield School’s athletic awards banquet Monday in the school gymnasium.
White, who set a North Carolina high school boys basketball career scoring and became the first player from a Wilson school or his hometown of Goldsboro to become a McDonald’s All-American, had a few honors left to receive. As an appetizer, White was named the Knights’ team MVP after scoring 1,055 points (third most in state history) and Greenfield’s Male Athlete of the Year.
While those awards may not have come as a surprise to White or anyone else in attendance, the next caught him off guard. White was announced as the 2018 Tom Ham Athlete of the Year as presented by The Wilson Times just before Knights head coach and athletic director Rob Salter presented White with a framed edition of his Greenfield jersey, signifying that White’s No. 0 would be retired.
“Yeah, I didn’t even see it coming,” White said of the dual honor of being named Times Athlete of the Year and having his jersey retired. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling! To accomplish so much in your high school career is a blessing and not many people can say they’ve done what I did, so it’s just a blessing.”
White is the second Greenfield player to have his jersey retired, joining former Barton College star and current Harlem Globetrotter Anthony Atkinson. He is the fourth Greenfield athlete to earn the Times honor for top athlete, along with Joe Warenda (2001), Jordan Sharpe (2013) and Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2015).
White, considered one of the top 25 recruits in the country, will continue his career at the University of North Carolina, beginning in just a few weeks when he enrolls in summer school in Chapel Hill. He is the third Times Athlete of the Year to have gone onto play for the Tar Heels. While White hesitated when told that Elm City High’s John Virgil was the first in 1976, he definitely knew the other — Southern Nash’s Julius Peppers in 1998. White also noted his former teammate Williams-Sutton, now a baseball player at East Carolina University, was on the esteemed list of recipients.
“Those are top-notch, well-known athletes from across the country, so to be compared to them and have my name on that same platform is a great feeling,” White said.
Some of the past Athletes of the Year might be feeling great to be compared to White, who ended his Greenfield career as one of the best prep players in North Carolina history. He broke a 27-year-old scoring record at the John Wall Invitational in Raleigh in December, scoring 119 points in three games.
He followed that by breaking the state career scoring mark of 3,307 points set by Eastern Alamance’s JamesOn Curry in February. White finished with 3,511 points, including the state single-season record of 1,069 he scored as a junior.
He nearly averaged a triple-double with norms of 30.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 3.2 steals.
“It was a great year overall, for basketball and academically it was one of my stronger years, too,” said White. “That’s the most important part to me. But basketball went great; the season went great. I built some relationships that I’ll never forget. The season went by almost too fast for me, but life goes on, you know, and I’m ready to take the next step of my career.”
White’s honors include, but are not limited to, first three-time Times Player of the Year, two-time North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year, Associated Press Men’s Player of the Year, MaxPreps All-American.
In addition to the McDonald’s All-America Game in March, White played in the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic in April alongside many of the nation’s top players. A little closer to home was the Josh Level Classic in Greensboro last weekend, an event started in 2014 for Level, a Winston-Salem high school player who collapsed on the court and died of heart disease. Since the first JLC, many of the state’s top players come together to play in a fundraiser game.
White earned MVP honors after scoring 41 points.
“I played well but it was for a great cause — the memory of Josh — and the whole community came out so that was good just to see all the people,” he said. “I feel like I put on for Goldsboro and Wilson.”
In a little more than a week, White will travel to Colorado where he will be among the 32 invitees to the USA Basketball U18 Men’s Team tryouts. The team will compete in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Canada.
“You just think of everything he’s accomplished as a basketball player and to finish his high school career tonight this way,” Salter said. “There’s nothing else he could do. He was so shocked with this award and I’m so glad I saw his face. He was so shocked with his jersey being retired. It was just a great night. I’m going to miss him but I’m going to be his biggest fan.”
While White clearly has many more big nights and honors ahead of him, Monday will remain special.
“This right here!” he said when he asked his most cherished memory of the year. “Not many people can say you’ve got this award and got your jersey retired. Not many people can say that. To me, this is probably the most memorable moment. The McDonald’s stuff was cool but this is the stuff I’m going to remember forever!”