By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Terrico White was on ESPN Saturday morning.
The network took a break from its real March Madness coverage and inserted an NIT byte, paying tribute to a remarkably athletic play.
White took a lob pass from Zach Graham and was practically eye level with the rim when he slammed it home.
A lot of basketball players aren’t motivated by the NIT, but it sure charges batteries in Terrico White.
That Sportscenter highlight is something Ole Miss fans thought they would see a lot more of this year.
They saw it enough to be teased, not enough to get to the NCAA tournament, but they still may see it enough to get back to New York for the NIT semifinals.
In wins over Troy and Memphis, his hometown school, White has scored 48 points. He’s shooting 54.8 percent from the floor, 67 percent (6 for 9) from 3-point range.
This has been a strange year for White with erratic production. Maybe it shouldn’t have been so surprising.
Looking back to the first half of his freshman year, he was hit and miss then, but when Chris Warren was injured in December, White took off. He had a clearly defined role at point guard and went on to average 18.4 points in SEC play and was second in the SEC with 2.9 3-pointers made per league game.
Understandably, fans and coaches were eager to see more of the same.
“We’d like to see it every night, but maybe he’s not ready to do it every night,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
That may give some insight into why White was recruited late and without much passion by Memphis and Vanderbilt.
He’s a pleasant, quiet personality, one who doesn’t often show much of himself to his coaches and teammates.
But when his intensity level is up, and he’s motivated, he’s hard to stop.
In the Rebels’ 85-64 win over Troy Wednesday, White was motivated in part by smaller players on the other side that he felt he could exploit.
In Friday’s 90-81 win over Memphis, he was fueled by the idea of playing the highly successful hometown team.
What will move him?
It remains to be seen what, if anything, will equally motivate White in Tuesday’s quarterfinal against Texas Tech. Perhaps the chance to show his stuff in New York will be enough.
There might be one or two NBA scouts on hand for the NIT semis in Madison Square Garden.
Once a projected first-round pick for this spring, White does not even appear on the mock draft at NBAdraft.net. That’s not a good sign for a guy who gave some consideration to leaving for the NBA last season, much more to leaving after this season.
White will explore his NBA status, and his two NIT games may be changing things. If he can stay hot – stay motivated – and get the Rebels to New York, he would have the stage and the chance to make up for the inconsistency of the regular season.
White led Ole Miss to a quality win Friday. It wasn’t Duke or Kansas, but it might have been Florida or Vanderbilt, that one more win that would have given the Rebels 10 wins in the SEC, an outright Western Division title and perhaps and NCAA berth.
White scored as much against Troy as he did in SEC home losses to Mississippi State, Arkansas and Florida when he had nine points each time.
Wednesday night Kennedy talked about the need to break through with big success at home. The Memphis game was a good start.
To make it really count for something, the Rebels need one more home win.
Getting that win Tuesday may come more easily if they have broken through with White.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at NEMS360.com.