Jack White Took His Talents to Duke, Now He's Back to Ball with Melbourne United

At Duke, Jack White was the captain of the Blue Devils. Next up, he’ll be trying to take Melbourne United to an NBL title.

Australian basketball player Jack White for Champion x NBL

Australian basketball player Jack White for Champion x NBL

Australian basketball player Jack White for Champion x NBL

Australian basketball is having a moment right now. We’ve got more ballers in the NBA and WNBA than ever before. Melbourne is home to more number one draft picks over the last 20 or so years than any other city. Our local league is hitting heights it hasn’t seen since the glory days of Gaze & Copeland.

The NBL is making high-impact moves, and the tremors are being felt right across the world. Just wait until you see LaMelo lining up a free throw sometime in the coming NBA season, with ‘Illawarra Hawks’ under his name in the stat box on the screen.

It’s not just a global thing though. The reach of the league extends from LaMelo’s hometown of California’s Chino Hills to Traralgon in Victoria’s LaTrobe Valley. The sleepy town of around 25,000 people is known for a royal visit in 1954 and a heritage-listed post office. It’s not the kind of place you would expect to unearth world-class basketball talent, but it’s 2020; nothing is as it seems anymore.

Traralgon is also the hometown of Jack White, a 6’7” forward who grew up balling on hardwood floors across the state. At 14, he was already playing in the senior leagues; not out of necessity but out of a desire to challenge himself. At 18, he went to Duke and became a Blue Devil. At 20, he became the captain of Coach K’s famous NBA nursery. 

His next challenge lies in the NBL. Jack has committed to Melbourne United and, once the Covid delays are over, will line up alongside Chris Goulding and the rest of the squad for a run at the title.

Complex AU caught a few minutes with Jack to discuss chasing dreams, beating Covid, and Champion’s new deal with the NBL.

Victoria is proving to be a breeding ground for basketball talent but, more specifically, country Victoria is exporting ballers. It’s quite an unlikely path, what do you think is setting regional players up for success?

Well I think the difference between country and metro athletes was the attitude that we all had; it was more of a team game, more than the dog-eat-dog. From that perspective I think I learned to play the game the right way from very early on. 

Because I was in the country and isolated from the city a bit more, I started playing senior basketball when I was 14. I think being in those kinds of environments really set me up from a young age to be challenged, both mentally and physically, in terms of getting beaten down every day and working out how to be effective.

Did you play senior basketball when you were 14 because there was no opportunity to play in under-15s or 16s?

Nah, there was always opportunities to play juniors and I did that all the way through but there was a really good opportunity for me there [in the seniors], being a gym rat. I loved the game from an early age, I wasn't great when I first started, but I always knew it was what I wanted to do. 

Obviously I didn't play a lot when I was 14 and joined those senior squads but the amount I learned in training and just being around them was paramount to my development. Then when I went back and played for state teams and for Australia I felt like I had that going for me, that experience. 

You were talking about your academic goals, and you’ve completed four years at Duke, with a few years as the captain of the squad, can you tell me what that was like?

It was an unreal experience and definitely, in my opinion, I got the best out of both worlds in terms of academics and athletics. Similar to when I first started playing senior basketball, those opportunities didn't really come for me straight away and that was something that I learned as I developed through juniors, and throughout my career, is that the places that I went really challenged me. When I went to the [Australian] Institute [of Sport] I felt I was really challenged there. Those are the places where I really got better and had to work out how I could be effective and how I could improve to ultimately try to be the best.

That was in my mind when choosing a school and obviously if you're gonna go to college, Duke's the place to be. If you're a basketballer that's the dream. I really just found my way those first two years, played against some great guys; Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, I could keep going and going but those guys I went up against every day in practice, ultimately made me ready to step into a leadership role in my final two years and be a more integral part of the team. Now that I'm into the professional world of basketball I definitely feel like I have a wealth of experience that not a lot of rookies have when coming into the league. 

Australian basketball player Jack White for Champion x NBL

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