LAWRENCE — In retrospect, Andrew White III wouldnt have minded a polite heads-up. Maybe some kind of signal or advance warning. Anything would have been cool, really. Maybe then he would have stretched his legs or tried to get the blood flowing a little bit.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
But, no, the warning never came. And on Saturday afternoon, with Kansas trailing Oklahoma State by eight points with 54 seconds left, KU coach Bill Self hollered at White and told him to replace senior guard Elijah Johnson.
I was real surprised, White said, just because there was only 55 seconds left in the game.
So in came White, a 6-foot-6 freshman guard who had 15 combined minutes in Big 12 play, and what happened next was as unanticipated as it was amazing. After sitting on the bench for 39 minutes, 6 seconds, White made a three-pointer, recorded a steal and finished with six points in 54 seconds as KU nearly pulled off another ridiculous comeback at Allen Fieldhouse before falling 85-80.
I was cold, White said. My arms and legs was tight. But I knew thats why I was going in the game, (to) try to make something happen in a short amount of time.
If the situation was different, Whites cameo may have been seen as some sort of springboard for more playing time a coming-out party for a player that was just outside the top 50 in most national recruiting rankings. But heres the funny thing about Whites role in KUs near-escape: He might not play all that much when Kansas returns to the floor tonight against TCU in Fort Worth. And, as Kansas coach Bill Self says, thats not all his fault.
White, who is averaging 3.1 points and 6.2 minutes per game during his freshman season, just happens to play for a team that doesnt need another long wing with elite shooting ability. The Jayhawks have Ben McLemore and Travis Releford on the perimeter, and if youve been paying attention, the Jayhawks really need another guard with better ballhandling and passing skills.
You look at our team, Self said, and does Andrew deserve from a talent standpoint to play more? Absolutely, no question. But you look at our team and whats our biggest need? Ballhandling and passing. So now, youre putting in a guy that doesnt do that as well as some other guys.
To be real candid, if we were more consistent handling and passing the ball, Andrew White would be playing more.
To hear that, you might think White would be a little frustrated about his predicament. On most college teams, the No. 51 recruit in the nation would be inserted into the rotation from day one. That, of course, is not always how it works at Kansas. And White, a native of Chester, Va., appears to understand the KU way better than most.
You look at whos playing the wing spots, White said of McLemore and Releford. If Im worthy of playing one of their spots, I dont think so. So I just work every day in practice, keeping my attitude positive and just try to contribute when I can.
For now, White says hes content to battle with Releford and McLemore in practice and wait for his turn. He still has areas of growth, of course. To play major minutes on the wing, hell need to get a little quicker. And his ball-handling skills could use some polishing as well.
But Self believes Whites performance against Oklahoma State could provide a shot of confidence. And White, still just a freshman, is willing to be patient and learn.
I have a lot of time to be the player that I want to be, White said. And for this year, Im just trying to help my team continue to win. Theres some seniors on the team, some guys that might not be here next year, that its more important for them than it is for me.
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