Last June, Coby White accepted an offer from North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams to visit Chapel Hill and the university.
White, a 6-foot-5 point guard at Greenfield School in Wilson, said he was never a huge Tar Heels fan. However, he said he and Williams hit it off during the visit.
“We really just talked about an hour or two,” said White, 17. “He talked about how he was going to recruit me and I fell in love with it. At Greenfield, it's like a big family atmosphere and everybody's close. I kind of felt the same (at UNC). I wasn't pinpointing on committing then, but I think I knew."
Over the next month, White said either Williams or a Tar Heels assistant watched him play summer basketball for the Winston-Salem-based CP3 16-and-under travel team. When White scanned the rows of college coaches in stands, he usually saw someone wearing light blue.
“And (Williams) came to a bunch of games,” White said, “and I really liked that."
Toward the end of July, Williams called White.
“We had just come back from playing in (Las) Vegas,” White said. “And we talked for awhile and he said, ‘Well, you know I'm going to offer you a scholarship.’ It was a sense of relief. It was like he understood how I felt and I just clicked with him.
“We talked about what's going to happen in life and how people will (now) say they will be my friend.”
Days later, White committed, and just as Williams promised, White’s stature grew. He shot up to top 40 in most national recruiting rankings, and he’s had a brilliant season.
White scored 33 points Friday in his team's N.C. Independent Schools semifinal loss to Fayetteville's Trinity Christian, but he finished his junior year with 1,069 points, a figure some high school players might take a career to achieve.
This season, White averaged 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Phenom Hoop Report, which closely follows the state's high school recruits, ranks White No. 2 in the class of 2018, behind Providence Day junior point guard Devon Dotson.
“Coby might be one of the most prolific scorers in North Carolina history,” said Rick Lewis, owner of Phenom Hoop Report. “He’s just wired to score. He's phenomenal. Being 6-5 with his length, athleticism and skill set, he's pretty dog-gone good. He's special.”
Earlier this season, White scored 52 points against Faith Assembly, breaking the Greenfield school scoring record set by Anthony Atkinson, a former Barton College star who played with the Harlem Globetrotters. In four other games this season, White topped 40 points, according to Greenfield School coach Rob Salter.
“He's such a focused and humble kid,” said Salter, whose school is about 200 miles east of Charlotte. “He's one of the best players in the country, but you would never know it talking to him.”
Salter describes White as “the consummate gym rat,” and someone easy to talk to and quick with a smile.
But on the basketball court, White’s intense competitiveness is on display, Salter said.
“He shoots the ball well and he has a mid-range game, a lost art in basketball,” Salter said. “He attacks the rim. So if one aspect of his game isn't working, he can utilize the other two. I mean, sometimes you think he has an OK game and he has 32 points.”
Salter saw White play for the first time in the summer after his eighth-grade year. After White was admitted into Greenfield, Salter drove to Fayetteville to watch him play in an AAU tournament.
He said he came away impressed.
“My dad went with me and I looked over during the game and told him, ‘This kid has a chance to be really good,’ ’’ Salter recalled. “He had good size and could really shoot. He had great instincts on the court, and I thought he had so much room to grow as a player. I just loved how he competed. He competes every single play."
White started as a freshman. By the end of season, he was Greenfield's best player, Salter said.
Not much has changed.
“I told him then, ‘You can be as good as you want to be. It’s dependent on how hard you work,’ ” Salter said. “And he's worked so hard. A lot of coaches who played against him before say they haven't seen a kid improve this much this fast.
“The sky's the limit for this kid. I think he's going to be a pro, and Carolina is getting a great guard who will be a great fit for their system."