For Jatarie White, being in the spotlight is nothing new. The Providence Day senior basketball star entered eighth grade at a staggering 6-foot-3 and it wasn’t long before she started drawing attention from top Division I recruiters.
She’s started on the Chargers varsity team each season averaging double-digit points, becoming an integral part of three consecutive state championship teams and could potentially grab her fourth this season. White’s scored more than 2,000 career points and has been named to the All-N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association team three times, and to add to her credentials, she’s made the Associated Press All-State team, was last year’s N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year, was named the Associated Press Player of the Year last year and has been selected for the prestigous McDonald’s All-Ameerican team this season.
ESPN’s no. 7 recruit in the class of 2014, White, who is now 6-foot-4 and is averaging 22 points and eight rebounds per game, will be taking her talents to South Carolina in the fall, joining former Charger teammate Tiffany Mitchell.
She’s accomplished just about everything one could accomplish in the course of a high school basketball career and will walk off the Providence Day court as one of the school’s most decorated athletes.
And, as coach Josh Springer says, everyone knows about White’s points and rebounds. Everyone knows she’s an exceptional athlete with skills that surpass her age. Everyone knows she’s one of the best players to ever come through the Chargers’ championship-rich program. Who Jatarie White is off the court, however, is a little less obvious.
“I’m your average 18-year-old,” White said, laughing. “I’m a goofy person. Whenever I walk into a tense room I’m like, ‘What’s wrong in here?’ I’m the person that tries to get everyone to smile, relax and have fun.”
Springer has seen White’s self-proclaimed goofiness firsthand, and is quick to acknowledge that despite her popularity and national recognition, she remains a humble teenager.
“I’m glad that she used the word ‘goofy’ because that’s the most accurate,” he said. “When Jatarie was first here and we learned that she was 14 and 6-foot-3 and very talented, one of the teachers on our campus noted that a lot of adults look at Jatarie and think that she’s got everything together. It’s easy to think that she’s got the world made but yet, she’s just like everyone else. She struggles with the same things all high school students do. Yet we look at someone of her size and make assumptions – good, bad or other – based on that.
“She’s 18-years-old but she’s the biggest kid. And I mean that as a compliment.”
White was quick to admit that she’s just like everyone else her age, but just like her talent on the court, her involvement in the south Charlotte community certainly sets her apart from most teenagers.
After starting off her senior season in typical White fashion, shooting 89 percent from the field to put up 32 points in the Chargers’ win on Nov. 11, White found time in between practices, games and the upcoming holidays to spearhead a service project for the local Ronald McDonald House, which serves families of children being treated at nearby hospitals. White rallied her teammates to make table decorations for families that would be spending Thanksgiving in the house and she, along with the rest of the team, spent an afternoon decorating and cleaning the house to make the holiday experience more enjoyable for those unable to be in the comforts of their own home.
“That’s not something most people know or read about,” Springer said, regarding White’s involvement with the community. “Points and rebounds are fine but I’m proud of the total person that she’s become, academically, socially and all-around.”
With her accolades continuing to pile up as the season progresses – the Chargers are 24-3 on the season and finished 8-0 in conference play and are the likely favorites for another NCISAA title due largely to White’s big contributions – White remains focused on Springer’s motto for his team: it’s not about me.
White has seen those words on the front of her binder for four years, keeping her humble despite her superstar status in the Charlotte community. And it’s developed an attitude in her that makes her likeable, easy to talk to and, as she says, “just like everyone else.”
“Everything in this world tells us, ‘it’s all about me,’” Springer said. “It’s all about me, it’s all about Jatarie. But Jatarie understands that not everything is about her. She’s extremely humble and eager to give credit to those around her. She’s selfless and that’s been extremely humbling for me as a coach. She truly personifies the philosophy of our
After another practice wrapped up for the varsity team one evening last month, White visited the Chargers’ fifth grade team practice, unannounced. When White walked in the room she had the same affect on the young girls as any professional athlete would have. But she didn’t go for the attention. She went to show her support for the up-and-coming athletes and encourage them on the court.
“When Jatarie White walked in to watch our fifth-graders play who are knee-high to a grasshopper, they were beyond ecstatic,” Springer said. “They were on Cloud 9. I received several emails from parents saying that they couldn’t believe Jatarie came to watch (their child) play.”
“It’s been cool to know that people know who I am and the things that I’ve done on the court,” White said. “But I also keep in mind that I have to stay positive because I know a lot of younger girls look at me. I have to be that good role model example and be the person that they can look up to by helping out, doing good things and being a person they can look up to in that way.”
With her career as a Charger quickly wrapping up, White’s made the most of her time on and off the court in an effort to be remembered as one of the school’s most well-rounded athletes. And despite her record-breaking senior season and dominating performances, it’s not the recognition that White said she’s most proud of.
“I think I’m probably most proud of my GPA,” she said. “Also the way I’ve improved into a leadership role. I knew I was OK in eighth grade but I kept improving and kept involving my teammates more to develop in that way. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I continue to thank all the people that have helped me get here. It’s not just my accomplishment. It’s the people who have spent a tremendous amount of time investing in me.”
White said she’s looking forward to taking her talents to the next level at South Carolina and is confident her development at Providence Day will transition to the collegiate level. But even with an extremely bright future ahead of her and national recognition not going anywhere anytime soon, Springer knows that White will remain the humble, down-to-earth athlete that she always has been.
“Points and rebounds, we can all read those things,” he said. “My goal as a head coach is to help our girls develop as players. But I get excited when I see Jatarie’s million-dollar smile and I see her growth and maturity. I feel confident that she’s going to go on and have an outstanding career at South Carolina.”