NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Growing up in North Platte, Gary White III has been around the NPCC basketball team for most of his life.
Gary White III grew up a fan of the NPCC men's basketball team, and attended Knights basketball camps. Now, he plays for the Knights, which he calls “the utter most blessing." (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)
"I remember him being a grade school little guy running around, shooting baskets all the time, being in the gym. He came to all of our camps when he was younger," Knights head coach Kevin O’Connor said.
O’Connor is in his 34th season as the head coach for the Knights, and has known White III for 15 years. O’Connor’s connection to the White family extends beyond Gary, as his father was a student manager for the Knights early in O’Connor’s career.
"I think Gary just became part of coming to the games and that because his dad was always around the program," O’Connor said.
White’s first memory of Knights basketball is when he was in elementary school.
“Probably around 5 or 6, maybe 7 years old, I remember I was spending the weekend with my dad, we came out to a game here, and I remember watching them. I thought it was so fun, I thought it was so cool that dudes were so tall and could dunk a basketball, or so quick, or able to make these cool moves. I loved the game of basketball before, but even just watching the JUCO level made me fall in love with it more," White III said.
White III grew up attending Knights games, and Knights basketball camps. He always looked forward to attending the camps every year.
"I’d go to endless camps. My dad would always have me sign up, he'd make me earn it though. I'd do chores around the house constantly, he would pay for them, but he made me earn it. I think that's the thing that when I would go to these camps, I'd be so much more appreciative because I wanted to learn. I wanted to take all this information in like a sponge, because I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be at the sport of basketball," White III said.
White III says the fact that he had to earn his way to going to the basketball camp helped shape his work ethic, and his head coach sees that work ethic every day.
“He's usually the first guy in the gym, he’s one of the last guys to leave, he comes back at night, he comes in on the weekend. That takes a special person because not everybody's gifted to do that," O’Connor said.
White III then played his high school basketball at St. Pat’s, coach O’Connor was interested in adding White III to his team, so he made a scholarship offer.
“One day I was in his office, he said that if I want to come play for him the offer was there," White III said.
As a freshman, White III did not play much, but he has seen more time on the court as a sophomore. He has averaged 11.8 minutes per game through the first 11 games of the season.
The change in skill level from high school to college was a big jump at first, but White III was able to adjust with help.
"It was sink or swim really. I learned a lot really quickly. I have great teammates that were able to help me," White III said.
O’Connor has noticed the maturation from high school to now.
"He's one of those kinds of guys that you enjoy coaching, that you look for when you're recruiting. He's got a passion for the game, basketball is not work to him, he loves playing. He's just a really good guy to be around, and I think he's a good teammate. I think the people that he plays with are really happy to have him as a teammate, and I think that speaks volumes about an individual," O’Connor said.
For someone who grew up as a fan of the Knights, was the water boy for the team when he was younger, and now plays for the team, his experience has been “the utter most blessing," White III said.