Small town to big dreams for Celtics' White

Small town to big dreams for Celtics' White
March 15, 2013, 10:15 am
Share This Post
C E L T I C S  P L A Y O F F  P I C T U R E 
in Eastern Conference

D.J. White's hometown is listed as Tuscaloosa, Alabama on his player profiles. But when asked to describe where he grew up, he let out a knowing chuckle.

"My city?" he laughed. "My town? See, it's Tuscaloosa County, but I lived in a part called Hulls. Everybody knows everybody, that type of thing. There's maybe 150 people. Maybe not even that."

"There no stop signs. I'm trying to think if they put in a stop light? No, there's no stop light. You're riding and there's trees, you'll see a couple houses, a couple churches, a gas station, that's about it."

From a close-knit community to a crowd of 18,624 at the TD Garden, White's basketball career has taken him around the world. It has been a journey he could have hardly imagined as a child who wondered if he would leave the state, let alone the country. Now on his second 10-day contract with the Celtics, he hopes that journey will continue in Boston.

White's first sport of choice was baseball - "I was pretty decent," he noted. His height was undeniable, though, and his mother encouraged him to start playing basketball when he was around 11 years old. White joined a church league and instantly fell in love with the game he now considers to be "a part of him."
The bright light could often be seen glowing from atop the hill where White and his family lived. His grandmother's home was to the right, his aunt's to the left.

Everyone could tell when the budding athlete was working on his skills.

"I had a goal right beside my house and I used to be out there all hours of the night, just bouncing, dribbling, doing whatever," the 6-9 forward told "I had a little flood light on the side of my house and I'd stay in my little corner. I could go out there whenever. They could hear the ball so they knew I was out. Before they were like go inside (laughs) … When they realized I was decent, it was cool."

Following his freshman year at Hillcrest High School, White attended the Nike Hoop Jamboree. He received an invitation to the Nike Camp and garnered interest from colleges around the country. It was uncommon for those in his community to leave the state, but White had his eyes set elsewhere. The Alabama Gatorade State Player of the Year wanted to attend Indiana University.

"People wanted me to stay and go to Alabama, but I just didn't feel like being around where I'm from was the best situation for me," he said. "I just decided Indiana was best for me to get away, so that was kind of challenging. Nobody had really left home. I was kind of the first one to go away."

White made the trip worthwhile. He played four years at Indiana, leading the Big Ten in rebounds and ranking second in scoring his senior season. The Detroit Pistons selected him with the 29th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft and traded him to the Seattle SuperSonics that night. Hiss travels through basketball were only beginning.

From Seattle, White relocated to Oklahoma City when the organization moved. In 2011, the Thunder traded him to the Charlotte Bobcats. White played two seasons for the team before leaving the country in 2012 to play for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. Last month, White returned to the United States to sign his first 10-day contract with the Celtics. For someone who once considered a 45-minute car ride to be a long trip, White has racked up his fair share of frequent flier miles.

"I just think about what (basketball has) brought me from and where I am now," he said. "Without basketball, I wouldn't have gone to a big college. Maybe I would have gone to a junior college or a community college. I'd still be in Alabama, I know that. It took me away from home. It just showed me the world. It's done a lot for me."

Now 26, he resides in Atlanta, Georgia during the offseason. White returns to Hulls, where his family lives, and all of his friends gather at his mother's house whenever he visits. While he says his experiences playing basketball have made him more social than he ever thought he would be, White still enjoys the familiarity of returning home to those he has known the longest.

"(The best part about a small community is) the closeness with everybody," he said. "I love my family, I love to be around them."

But before he can go back again, he has some business to take care of in Boston.