January 4, 2008

White's learning from watching

This is something new.

When the clock winds down during a close game, Malcolm White sits on the Rebel bench - watching. When the clock winds down and the game's out of reach, White's on the floor - in mop-up duty.

When you've been the kind of player Malcolm White's been in his past, the bench is more like a foreign land than a home base. But when you're playing behind seniors Dwayne Curtis, Kenny Williams and Jermey Parnell, the bench becomes home.

But White's not sulking; he's learning.

"I've tried to be patient. It's helped learning a lot from Dwayne, Kenny and JP," White said. "When I'm on the bench, I watch them, and I'm always learning.

"I've learned how to carry myself and approach things right. I see how those guys approach practice. That's one of the main things, seeing how hard those guys work."

White joined the Ole Miss Rebels a year early, electing to enroll at the start of the fall semester instead of spending another year at Genesis One.

Ole Miss assistant coach Owen Miller spends plenty of time working with White, and he said White's better off in Oxford than tearing up the prep ranks for another season.

"I think it was great to get him here early so he could play with those three seniors. He gets to battle with those guys daily," Miller said. "That's such valuable experience, and it's going to help him down the road.

"The experience he's getting this year is the best thing that could have happened to him. Sometimes, I'm sure he's not happy with the minutes he's getting, but he is getting better everyday. He'll be really good for us."

White's played in 10 of the Rebels' 13 games this season and has logged over 10 minutes on two separate occasions - both blowout wins.

But Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said White will help the Rebels win some close games now.

"I've tried to get him in the game so he can get some much-needed experience," Kennedy said. "He's going to be a guy that's not only going to help us in the future, he'll help us win games this year."

And when White enters the game, Kennedy has a special message for him.

"Before he puts me in, he'll tell me, 'Listen. Don't take the first shot. Just calm down," White said.

Wednesday against Alabama A&M, White entered the game and promptly missed a hump shot on his first touch.

"He hasn't listened to that very well, if you've noticed," Kennedy joked. "He shoots whenever he touches it."

When White finally gets off the bench, he unleashes all the energy that's been building since the game began - to mixed results.

But Curtis said one thing's guaranteed. White will be playing hard.

"He plays with intensity we need - especially when he tries to dunk," Curtis said. "It's the one thing that amazes me. Every time he goes to finish, he dunks. He tries to break the rim."

White got a thunderous tip dunk in the second half Wednesday night, showing the Rebel crowd the athleticism and explosiveness that has the Rebels coaches so high on him.

"He's a guy with a very big motor," Miller said. "He plays hard, and he ends up all over the place. He's got to get better with that. But as he matures, that'll happen. You'd much rather calm them down than have to get them excited."

Part of White's excitement comes from a desperate attempt to do whatever he can to help his team.

"AK broke it down to me. He told me my role and how I'd fit in," White said. "Whenever he calls on me, I just try to be ready to play and do my job. I just want to help the team win.

"Whatever I can do when I'm in the game that helps us out, that's what I'm willing to do."

And while White's been able to develop with the team this year, he knows what's expected of him in the future.

"I just try to do my best and play hard. I don't back down from anybody - no matter how big or how strong. I'm always ready to go," White said. "Next year, I'll be prepared for the big lights."

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