South Charlotte

Sophomore's goal: Win 4 state championships

Jatarie White is 6-foot-3. She has won a state championship at Providence Day. She's been named to the All-N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A girls' basketball team.

Last summer, White played for a USA Basketball national girls' team that won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas tournament. ESPN ranks her as the No. 3 player in her class nationally.

She's also 16 years old and a sophomore on the Chargers' basketball team.

How has she taken all the early success?

"I try not to let it get to my head," she said. "I have to stay humble and know that I still have a lot of work to do and can't just settle with where I am now."

White started playing basketball at 6 years old for a YMCA team. At 8, she was playing AAU basketball. She played one year of volleyball in seventh grade but decided to focus on basketball. In eighth grade, she came to Providence Day. Charger coach Josh Springer knew he had a talented player as soon as he saw her.

"My first thought was, 'I hate that she can't play varsity as an eighth-grader,'" said Springer, citing a rule that the CISAA conference has against letting middle schoolers play on varsity.

White was only maybe an inch shorter than she is now when she came to Providence Day ("I was a tall baby," said White), but it wasn't just her height that impressed Springer. He said her agility and ability to move is impressive for someone as young and tall as White.

"There are young ladies that are 6-feet tall, there are young ladies that are 6-3, but her coordination and body awareness at such a young age was extremely unique," said Springer. "She runs the floor very fluidly, there's no robotic mechanics about it."

As a freshman at Providence Day, White averaged 11 points and 8.1 rebounds a game, helping the Chargers to a second straight state championship. She was also named to the all-state team with teammate Tiffany Mitchell.

Over the summer, she tried out for the USA Basketball U16 girls team.

She said she was overwhelmed at first, but once she started playing she settled down. She made the team and averaged 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds as the U.S. team won the gold medal.

Springer said he saw a change in White when she came back from the tournament.

"You cannot go through that experience and not have it make you a better person and player," said Springer.

Though she's just a sophomore, White has become more of a vocal leader this year. She's more relentless going for offensive rebounds, and she's able to run the floor in transition.

Springer points to a game earlier this season, when the opposing team had a player on a fast break at midcourt. White was under her own basket, sprinted down the court and blocked the layup, setting up a fast-break layup for the Chargers.

"A year ago, I don't know if she would have made that play," said Springer. "There's something that goes on in your brain that says, 'Either I'm going to go after this or not.' And that's where I think her mental toughness has gotten much better."

Now White and Springer hope to improve her physical toughness. White has many post moves - she said her dad taught her the up and under move in eighth grade - but she admits that sometimes she needs to just go up strong to the basket. Springer said she's a great free throw shooter, but White has to be aggressive and get fouled to get to the line.

"She has a plethora of post moves so sometimes I think she thinks, 'Which one of my seven moves am I going to use?'" said Springer. "Sometimes she could just use a strong power move and do just as much damage."

White is averaging 15.1 points, second on the team behind Mitchell, a senior, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game this year for Providence Day (15-3, 1-0 CISAA through Jan. 19).

Springer said she probably alters even more shots. Springer said she's a good defender, which allows the Chargers' perimeter defenders to be more aggressive and go for steals.

"She's able to guard all five positions and that is extremely unique," said Springer. "She can guard a center just as well as she can guard a point guard."

Having to guard her talented teammates in practice has also helped her improve this year.

"Tiffany (Mitchell), when I guard her, it's like I have to guard a guard," said White. "I'm not used to guarding guards, so when she drives past me I have to learn to move my feet quicker. Or she's good at causing fouls on the other person so I have to move my body where I don't get that foul call."

Even as a post player, White is a good passer and the lefty has a nice outside shot, even winning a three-point contest last year.

White has more than two years of high school basketball left, and she's already played international basketball, been named all state and won a state championship ring. What now?

"I want to try to win four rings."