Jack White’s playful personality is his contribution to Melbourne United’s off-court culture, but it’s on the floor where the star forward is building a ridiculous winning record.
White’s dedication to winning in his time with the reigning NBL champions has yielded a record that would be the envy of any NBL player.
In the 17 games he has featured across the past two seasons, United has won 16 and outscored opponents by 150 points.
Of course, it’s not all Jack — his side did win last year’s title while he was recovering from a ruptured ACL injury — but the do-everything forward clearly fortifies this team — on and off the floor.
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“I’ve been a part of some very high-level teams full of great players and people so I’m just very fortunate,” White told News Corp.
“I don’t care about the individual accolades and achievements, I’m a firm believer that winning takes care of all the individual stuff one would hope for.
“I’m focused on doing the things I can control — rebounding, defence, talk and effort — to help bring team success.”
He hasn’t forgotten the only defeat he’s experienced in a United jersey — an 85-89 heartbreaker against Perth during last year’s NBL Cup — and he’s well aware there will be bumps ahead, even if he refuses to consider losing.
“I understand it’s a long season and the league is more competitive than it was last year,” he said.
“There are some hostile environments we have to compete in and it’s inevitable losses are going to occur.
“But that’s not how I think. I’m coming into every game with the belief that we’re going to win.”
BACK WITH THE STARTERS
United is on a league-best six-game winning streak and White has been part of the last five, returning to the line-up following eight months on the sidelines.
Injected into the starting five against New Zealand last Friday night, White struggled to make an impact, but bounced back with a vengeance with 14 points and 11 rebounds in his side’s win over fellow title contender Illawarra on Sunday.
The standards he sets are evident in the way he speaks about his zero-point performance against the Breakers — and the emphasis he puts on winning, above all else.
“I can’t lie, I was pretty down on myself individually after that game, but the win overshadowed that. I was super happy we got that done as a group,” he said.
“We only had a day between games, so you really need to move on to the next one as best you can, no matter how good or how poorly you might have performed.
“I just flushed it and reset my mindset.”
THE DELLY SHOW
An all-world performance from teammate Matthew Dellavedova helped White lift his game against the Hawks.
The Boomers star went off with 33 points, draining seven three-pointers and dealing out nine assists in a performance that was the talk of the league — even if it was barely a blip on the NBA champion’s radar.
“He wasn’t different at all,” White said of his star teammate.
“As a group, we were stoked for him and understood just how big of a role he played in us getting that win, but I guess that’s just his standard.
“He’s played at the highest level, he’s guarded the Steph Currys and he’s won an NBA championship. He doesn’t really give a damn about the individual stuff
“He’s completely bought into the group, he just wants to make himself, his teammates and the club better and that’s all you can really ask of him.
“Him being a part of the NBL is so special for Australian basketball.”
JACK, THE PEST
The aggressive winner has a playful side — White’s known as a bit of a pest down at Hoops City — and he says letting his personality shine is how he contributes to the United culture.
“We have plenty of guys who have a great sense of humour and bring a lot off the floor, so that interaction is good for the dynamic of our group,” he said.
“It just doesn’t feel like a workplace, it’s such an enjoyable environment to be a part of.
“I feel like it’d be rude If I didn’t enjoy the whole experience, try to be a great teammate, get to know them and spend time with them off the floor and really instil that team morale that’s so important, in my eyes, to long term success.”
SHILI, MY IDOL
The 24-year-old says he hit it off with Kiwi point guard Shea Ili when he landed at United in 2020.
He’s only half joking when he says the dynamic defender is his “idol”, given both men pride themselves on blanketing opponents.
“Shea is my guy, I love how hard he works and I just idolise how he plays defence, he’s just so tough,” White said of their bromance.
“We’re always getting shots up together and chatting. I love being around him and he is someone I look up to and admire.
“I’ve learned a lot from him, he’s a guy you always want to have on your team and you know he has your back.”
DELLY V SHILI
White says the competition between his tough mate and Dellavedova in practice sets the standard for the rest of the group.
“Watching Shili and Delly go head-to-head is such an incredible match up that no else gets to see,” he said.
“It’s a world class match up that I get to witness in practice each day and to compete with both of them on both ends is just so special.
“They’re both world class defenders, you couldn’t ask for two better point guards to have on our team.”
There’s a special connection between White and fellow forward Mason Peatling, who filled the breach in United’s title run last season.
The pair is the same age and played on junior state teams together.
It’s why White gets so pumped when the man they call ‘Horse’ makes a big play.
“It’s awesome for me and him to be on the same team again and that’s something I’ve really loved,” White said.
“He’s such a big-time competitor, we call him Horse because he’s such a workhorse. He’s more than willing to put his body on the line and do the dirty work.
“You know what you’re going to get out of him every time you put him on the court, he’s just so dependable.”
United begins a run of three away games in eight days when they take on the 36ers in Adelaide on Saturday.
And a familiar face in Mitch McCarron — a member of last year’s United title team — will be waiting.
Fresh off a near-triple double (10 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) in a shock win over Perth, McCarron will no doubt lift for his former team.
“They had a huge win against Perth and playing in Adelaide is going to be a tough atmosphere for us,” White said.
“Mitch had an unbelievable game and he carries a huge load and sets the tone for them.
“We’re going to have our hands full but we’re going to come in with the focus on trying to make their offensive weapons, like Mitch, Todd Withers and Daniel Johnson, struggle to score.
“We aim to be the best defensive team in the league all season.”
Before last Friday night, United had not played a game in nearly two weeks and White said he was excited to have regular basketball back.
He wants to finish off the road trip in style and then get back in front of the home fans at John Cain Arena, where they haven’t played since December 19.
Originally published as NBL22: Jack White on how he has become Melbourne United’s good-luck charm