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Cremins call changes White’s tourney evaluation
BHS All-state guardsigns with top coach, College of Charleston


Tony White Jr. was none too pleased with his performance among a national field of top talent at an AAU basketball tourney in Georgia, where the former All-state Bearden High School guard said he “struggled a lot.”

But en route back from the tourney, White received a call from highly respected major college coach Bobby Cremins — and gray skies turned blue instantly. The call ignited a relationship, as the former Bulldog standout will become well-acquainted with Cremins in the coming years.

When hearing on the other end, “‘This is coach Bobby Cremins’ — my mouth dropped,” White said about talking with Cremins, regarded as one of the nation’s top coaches during 19 years at Georgia Tech. “I was like, ‘what’s going on?’ I was shocked.”

White will join the former Tech coach and star guard at South Carolina, who came out of retirement this summer to take the head-coaching job at College of Charleston [South Carolina]. White signed with C of C during a brief ceremony in the BHS East Mall Tuesday, Aug. 15.

“He told me he liked the way I played,” White said. “I was just thinking, ‘This was my worst tournament, I thought it was. I guess he saw otherwise.”

Cremins had just seen White perform among the nation’s best teenage talent at the Peach Jam in Augusta, Ga. in July, “The biggest Nike Invitational Tournament ever,” White said. “I was playing with my A-A-U team, the Tennessee Travelers. ... He was asking, ‘who is this kid?’”

As for what specifically drew him to Cremins, “His history with guards and with, just players,” White said. “He was really laid-back, I like his approach towards me. ... He seemed very positive about everything, and I liked it.”

Cremins, who coached at Georgia Tech from the 1981-1982 season through 1999-2000 (352-233 record), took his 1989-90 team to the Final Four.

Mark Blevins, BHS boys head basketball coach, said “it was a great decision” because Cremins is especially good working with guards.

“He was a standout point guard back in the late sixties, nineteen seventy, on one of South Carolina’s best teams ever,” Blevins said. “And all the guards he’s coached at Georgia Tech. ... I don’t think you can find a better guy to play for than coach Cremins. He’s a very positive type person. I think he had twelve first-round [NBA] draft picks that he coached at Georgia Tech. ... guard-wise Stephon Marbury, Kenny Anderson, Jon Barry, Dennis Scott, Mark Price.”

Blevins said White will likely red-shirt for the 2006-07 season, learning his craft behind standout senior point guard Dontaye Draper, C of C’s leading scorer last season. “I talked to Dontaye and told him to take Tony under his wing and [teach] him everything he knew on the floor,” he said.

In 2007-08, “[Tony’s] a projected starter ... we’ve talked and talked about that. I think Tony will do very well there,” Blevins said.

AUTHORITY

Tony White Jr. is only the latest in a family guard tandem beginning with his father, Tony White Sr., considered one of the Southeastern Conference’s top guards in the mid-1980s while a UT standout who went on to play in the NBA.

Most recently, the senior White was inducted into the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame’s 2006 class July 27.

As for helping make the junior White’s game better, “After every game he would tell me something I was doing right or wrong,” Tony White Jr. said. “Plus I had to hear it from my coach [Blevins] as well, so I had to hear it from two people. I know they were just trying to help me, help improve my game, to see me go to another level. And that helped out a lot.

“I’ve got to thank coach Blevins as much as anybody else. ... He brought the best out of everybody.”

For all the pushing his father and Blevins did to hone Tony White Jr.’s game, the 17-year-old said his mother, Rhonda — a former guard at Holston High School, — “is probably the hardest on me as far as basketball-wise as well as academically. She sets me straight. She’s a really strong individual. I think that’s where I get most of my toughness from.”

With a laugh, the younger White said his father has been reluctant to play him one-on-one since his sophomore year at BHS. “I wonder what that’s all about? I haven’t seen him on the court since,” Tony White Jr. said, adding that he “won a couple of games” from dad as a sophomore.

The senior White responded, “Basically, if it’s half-court, I can handle him. If it’s full-court, it think he’ll kill me.”

 

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