I’ve always had a thing for UNC point guards. It probably started with Ty Lawson, but it has extended to almost (not including you, Larry Drew) every iteration of the position since then. Something about the play caller just draws me in to the point that I get irrationally attached.
Enter: Coby White.
I first saw Coby White in person at the Millbrook Showcase at Broughton High School in December of 2017. I knew a lot about the recruit who had committed to UNC just three days after receiving an offer from Roy Williams, but I’d never seen more than clips here or there online.
The Greenfield School was taking on Garner in the tournament and Garner put up what I thought was a pretty tremendous defensive effort. They threw pretty much everything they could defensively at Greenfield, and particularly White, but Coby handled it all really well. So well, in fact, that he put up 46 points in that game. Did I mention the defense was good? It’s no wonder he ended up as North Carolina’s leading high school scorer.
It was an unbelievably impressive performance, and needless to say, I was hooked on yet another future UNC point guard.
Hooked as I was, I traveled to Charlotte for the North Carolina private school All-Star Game to see Coby in action again before he arrived at UNC. In true All-Star Game fashion, White played sporadic minutes in a game that featured absolutely no defense to speak of on the way to over 200 combined points between the two teams. Still, it was another chance to see what we could expect at UNC the following season.
I made it my mission to witness as much of White in person as I could because I realized he was such a special player the first time I saw him play. It dawned on me at some point this season that we were probably watching a one-and-done player, even though I selfishly wanted to be able to have him on my favorite team for as long as possible.
Toward the end of the season when it was abundantly clear that every game could be Coby’s last in a UNC uniform, I decided I had to take it all in. I made it to every home game at the Dean Dome this season, made the trip to Charlotte for the ACC Tournament, arranged the six and a half hour road trip to Columbus for the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, and flew to Kansas City for the Sweet Sixteen game. A lot of that was for the Tar Heels in general, of course, but I’d be lying if I said at least some of it wasn’t for Coby specifically.
Nothing in Missouri went how we wanted it to, and it still feels a bit unfair that a season with so much promise ended the way that it did. I kind of feel like I was robbed of more chances to see Coby in action for the Tar Heels, but I’m glad I made the decision to take it all in as much as I could for as long as I could.
The love of UNC basketball sometimes makes us do crazy things. In this case, it made me miss a month of weekends at home for the greater good of watching a guy who has become one of my all-time favorite players on my favorite team in sports. Worth it every time, in my opinion.
Even though we only got one year with White as a Tar Heel, and usually that doesn’t feel like enough to really make a lasting impression, I think this one is different. Maybe it’s because I had a year’s head start on loving this kid, or maybe it’s because his celebrations of literally everything his teammates did perfectly captured how we were all feeling, or maybe it’s just because we’re mesmerized by his hair. Whatever it is, I’m glad we had the chance to experience it.
We probably all have a player that we’re a little irrational about. One that we hold in a higher regard than others for whatever reason. Coby feels like that player for me. I can’t lie to you and say that I’m not sad his time in Chapel Hill is over, but I’m also very excited to see what basketball has in store for him at the next level.
I hope Coby and his majestic hair make an NBA team incredibly successful, and I hope he continues to be the best hype man a teammate could ask for. I’ve never really gotten into the NBA, so whatever team drafts him is probably going to pick up a fan. I’m ready to jump on board.
I’m sure that I’ll love the next UNC point guard a little too much too, continuing the trend that has very much become my brand. Regardless of who comes next, I’ll always have a soft spot for the big hair, the pink shoes, and the infectious energy that Coby White brought to the Heels. It was only one year, but it was a heck of a lot of fun.