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In addition to wearing a T-shirt with the North Carolina logo prominently displayed, Coby White had on a big grin Wednesday afternoon in the Greenfield School gymnasium where he and Knights varsity boys basketball teammate Elijah McCadden had spent many hours over the past two years.
The seniors would be practicing with their Knights teammates later in preparation for the team’s season opener Thursday, but the future was the topic of conversation at the moment. White and McCadden each made official their college choices by signing their National Letters of Intent to North Carolina and Georgia Southern, respectively, in front of an assembly of fellow students, friends, teachers, coaches and family members.
White, a 6-foot-5 guard who lives in Goldsboro, committed to the Tar Heels in the summer of 2016 but Wednesday was anything but anti-climactic.
“I’m at a loss for words right now because as a kid you dream about this your whole life,” White said, unable to keep that grin off his face.
McCadden, a 6-6 wing, was equally enthused that he was finally an official Georgia Southern signee after verbally committing to the Sun Belt Conference program this summer. Visiting the GSU campus in Statesboro sealed the deal, he said.
“I already had a great relationship with the coaches and when I visited it was just like I was the player they wanted the most,” he said. “I felt like it was the best situation for me. I didn’t feel a need to wait.”
While Greenfield has sent its share of players into the college ranks, having two NCAA Division I signings on the same day was a special treat.
“They’ve achieved the dream,” Knights head coach Rob Salter said. “They’ve put a lot of hard work into it and it’s a great day for Greenfield, our basketball program and these two young men, who have worked so hard to achieve their goal.”
White said he had received a call earlier Wednesday from UNC head coach Roy Williams, “but I was in class so I couldn’t answer it.”
He also had exchanged congratulatory texts with fellow Tar Heels recruit Rechon “Leaky” Black of Concord.
“We talked about the future and how this is the last ride for high school, so enjoy it while we can,” White said.
White, listed as the No. 1 player from North Carolina in the class of 2018 and the No. 5 senior point guard nationally, is part of a three-player class that includes five-star small forward Nassir Little of Orlando, Florida.
“It’s shaping up very well,” White said. “I think right now we’re No. 1 or something like that. I think this is the best class, talent wise, since 2014.”
White has already made his mark at Greenfield, where he owns the single-game, single-season and career scoring marks. His 1,069 points last season is the most ever scored in a season by a high school boys basketball player in North Carolina.
He rose into national prominence after his sophomore season, opening eyes and landing on wish lists of programs around the country with a breakout summer playing for Team CP3 in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. White quickly collected offers from Div. I teams before Atlantic Coast Conference teams Clemson and Wake Forest also got in line. However, when Williams extended an offer from UNC in July 2016, it didn’t take long for White to decide he wanted to be a Tar Heel — actually just four days.
“Coby committed to us after his sophomore year and it was one of the happiest days of my coaching career because I think he is such a wonderful prospect,” Williams said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “He’s 6-5 and can play both guard positions, can shoot the ball extremely well and is very athletic attacking the basket. He pushed the ball hard in transition and will fit in well here. He’s getting better and better defensively each year and is a complete guard.”
Since his commitment, White rose from a three-star to a four-star prospect and into the top 25 nationally. He never worried about the NCAA investigation of the UNC athletic department, although he was happy to hear the NCAA say last month that Carolina would not face any sanctions.
“From day 1, the coaches have told me about it and said we’d be fine,” White said. “I put my trust in them, so I never had any doubt or worry or anything like that, that a penalty was going to come to us.”
While Wednesday was a joyous occasion for White and his family members — mother, Bonita; brother, Will, and sister, Tia — there was solemnity in the fact that his father was not there. Donald White died of cancer in August. Coby White, who includes #FMF (For My Father) on his Twitter posts, is determined to make his father’s dreams for him come true.
“I’m going to fulfill it so there’s no question I’m going to be where he saw me at one day,” White avowed. “So I’m going to work as hard as I can just to get there.”
The son of Anita Pittman of Rocky Mount and Rodney McCadden of Virginia, McCadden also received offers from Appalachian State, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Hofstra, Towson, Western Kentucky and James Madison. However, Eagles head coach Mark Byington and his staff worked the hardest, McCadden said.
“They first saw me in Wilmington last year and they offered me in June, I think it was,” McCadden said. “After they offered me, they never stopped calling me. They were really consistent in building the relationship and making sure they got me.”
He emerged as a solid complement to White last season, his first at Greenfield, where he averaged 19 points a game.
The Eagles, 18-15 last season, list five seniors on the 2017-18 roster.
While White and McCadden are excited about their futures on the collegiate level, they are as excited about their immediate future and their last few months together as a teammates.
“He’s like a brother to me,” McCadden said. “We both want to win so our goal this year is to win a state (North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A) championship.”
“I’m loving the future right now but I’ve got to think about the present too,” he said. “I love my team. This is probably the closest team and most hard-working team I’ve ever been on. We’re really close as a group of guys and hopefully we will get it done this year.”