Georgetown's incoming freshman class rightly has the faithful feeling optimistic about the years ahead. But while that excitement has keyed in on five-star Isaac Copeland and electric scorer LJ Peak, not many pixels have been spilled on freshman forward Paul White. Just don't expect the lack of attention to bother White; he's been here before.
Recruiting: four-star, ranked 34th by ESPN, 50th by Rivals, 72nd by 247, 51st by RSCI
At Whitney Young high school in Chicago, Paul White seemed to become well-known for being overlooked, if such a distinction is possible. The Dolphins perennially run out a stacked roster, and White's career was no different. For good and for ill, White was classmates with Jahlil Okafor, the top-ranked player nationally in the class of 2014. During the 2012-13 season, that duo was joined by eventual Georgetown commit LJ Peak, who provided some flash during his stopover at Whitney Young.
Surrounded by a headline-grabbing post and ball-dominant guards, White went about his work in less-noticed ways. He found Okafor inside with timely, sometimes tricky passes from the wing and high post. He helped break opposing presses with size, vision, ball-handling, and passing, and broke opposing zones with a lethal mid-range jumper. He cleaned up the glass, earning put-backs on offense and initiating fast breaks from the defensive boards. He compiled a highlight reel that more resembled an instructional video than a SportsCenter top 10.
Of course, being Okafor's teammate wasn't all bad. While opposing defenses worried about stopping Okafor inside, White often found breathing room that he would not have been afforded on a thinner roster. The national schedule and frequent TV appearances raised everyone's recruiting profile, and White's diverse but not flashy game might not have attracted so much attention had colleges not also been pursuing Okafor. White enjoyed some of this attention but could share the burden of carrying high expectations.
Still, playing with a gravitational force like Okafor meant that White had to learn the nuances of the game--spacing, timing, the value of a fake. He continued to do little things that don't attract much attention in isolation but accumulate over the course of a game, a season, and a career. That career was fittingly capped when Okafor, White, and St. Louis-bound guard Miles Reynolds led Whitney Young to a state championship.
Being a long, multiskilled, high-IQ player will garner recruiting attention, and White's particular blend of skills made him a natural fit for Georgetown's read-and-react offense. After all, it was in this offense that Otto Porter and, before him Jeff Green, had thrived with similar skill sets and eventually became top-five picks in the NBA draft. When JT3 hired former Northwestern assistant and Chicago native Tavaras Hardy as an assistant in the summer of 2013, White seemed like a natural target. White visited the Hilltop, pronounced it crackin', and soon thereafter committed.
Georgetown be crackin'.— Paul White (@Numba13_) September 15, 2013
In Kenner League play, White was somewhat limited. His stats -- 12.7 ppg, 49 FG%, 6.6 reb pg, 1.7 apg -- reflect his diverse game. But those numbers paled next to some of the gaudier summer league stats put up by his teammates. White's summer output also was muted by a nagging groin injury. Even so, White ended his summer on a positive note with a 26-point, 8-rebound gem.
White will have a lot of competition for minutes this year. As many as nine Hoyas are vying for playing time at three front-court positions. Down low, Josh Smith, Mikael Hopkins, and Bradley Hayes will split the minutes at center, with Hopkins likely also getting some run as a power forward. At forward, Aaron Bowen and Reggie Cameron return; while neither has guaranteed himself any playing time, each has a specific attribute that could be valuable in the right match-up. As he did last year, senior guard Jabril Trawick likely will play some minutes as the nominal small forward when he shares the floor with two other guards.
So where do Copeland, White, and classmate Trey Mourning fit in? Copeland and White are certain to get some burn, though how much depends on how quickly they adjust to the college game. Both have lanky frames that can suddenly appear frail when compared to veteran opponents who have spent years in a college conditioning program. White's game, full of subtle nuance, may take some time to adjust to college speed. And reliable mid-range jumpers sometimes take a season to extend to the three-point line.
Still, there's good reason to believe White can contribute right away. White's years of operating around a low-post beast in high school have prepared him to share the floor with Smith. White should have no problem finding the right angle and time to feed Smith down low (a skill that, as easy as it sounds, sometimes takes a year or more to learn) and punishing defenses that sag onto Smith with a jumper. On a team with a thin back-court, White can help as a press-breaker. And White is a smart cutter off the ball, which should lead to some easy baskets when Smith-Rivera, Peak, or Trawick is operating on the ball. Finally, the leap to the college game should be shorter for White, who played against top-flight competition throughout high school.
White becomes the Hoyas' sixth man and he and Copeland form a menacing, long-armed forward combination. He's strong enough to defend the four and to hold his own on the glass. He's quick enough to allow JT3 to rotate White, Copeland, and Bowen as forwards in a lethal press. On offense, he stretches the floor by hitting threes and mid-range jumpers and moving effectively without the ball and freeing up space for his more ball-dominant teammates.
White needs a year to adjust to the speed and bulk of the college game. He shows flashes of his diverse skill set but struggles to create enough space on offense, to keep up on defense, and to hold his own around the basket. He gets lost in the shuffle for front-court minutes and ends up at the end of the rotation, chipping in here and there but not contributing reliably.