Anthony White Jr. played for the Lake Land men’s basketball team from 2010-12, helping Lake Land finish with a 22-10 record and a Great Rivers Athletic Conference title in 2011. White was a two-time All-GRAC selection after he poured in 637 points in two seasons. He then played for Mercer where he averaged 7.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game his senior season and scored double figures in eight of his final 10 collegiate games. Today, White enters his next phase in the coaching ranks in Virginia with Ferrum College after spending a year with Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. White has a dream to coach at the Division I level. White spent the last decade quite a bit of success, so we thought we would catch up with the former standout. 

Cinderella Story

People still ask Anthony White Jr. about the Cinderalla story in 2014 – No. 14 Mercer shocking No. 3 Duke, 78-71, in the first round of the NCAA mens basketball tournament.

After two successful seasons with Lake Land, White had moved on to Mercer, which won the Southern Conference Tournament championship to qualify for the NCAA Division Tournament.

White said that week had been a rollercoaster of emotions. White started the conference tournament with his best game of the season in a win over Jacksonville. White finished with 29 points and seven rebounds to set up a battle with USC Upstate, who at the time had current Denver Nuggets starter Torey Craig leading the squad. Mercer was able to squeak past in overtime to set up a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast in the championship game. 

“We had a chip on our shoulder when we played FGCU,” said White. “They beat us at our crib, so we had a chance to go down to their place and beat them. It was a packed house and they gave our fan section a tiny space in the upper corner. We wanted to beat them so bad.”

Of course, that’s what Mercer did, defeating No. 1 seeded FGCU, 68-60, in the Alico Arena in Fort Myers, Florida, to qualify for March Madness. A few days later, the team gathered to watch Selection Sunday, but coach Bob Hoffman already suspected whom they would play.

“We were sitting around and coach flat out said he thought we were going to play Duke in Raleigh,” said White. “We all thought there was no way, and sure enough our name was put right with Duke. We were all so excited.” 

White said it was hard to stay focused the day of the game. At one point, White’s childhood idol Reggie Miller walked through the gym. 

“It was all so exciting,” said White. “We had a chartered jet fly us in. Right when we got off the plane, there was a camera crew following us around. I’ll never forget when the gym was shooting around and Reggie Miller walked through. He was my idol. I grew up in Indiana. I used to call him Uncle Reggie. I won a promotion where I got to be a ball boy for a Pacers game and get my picture taken with him. It was hard not to smile that day. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, but our assistant coach said he ran up to Reggie and told him how much I loved him.”

Earlier that week, White’s best friend passed away. He said he found out right before a film session and that he was “tuned out.” But he blocked that out once the game began.

White hit the first shot of the game for Mercer, a deep 3-pointer. In a back-and-forth battle, White hit a key shot down the stretch and finished with 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting.

The Bears lost to Tennessee, 83-63, in the next round, but the team had made its mark on the tournament. 

“Going back and thinking about running onto the court during warmups, hitting the first shot, and the atmosphere, I think, ‘Damn I wish I could go back and relive it,’” said White. “At the end of the day, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to pull that off. I use that game in my recruitment pitch to this day.”

Coaching Ranks

After graduating from Mercer, White played one season in the South East Australian Basketball league. The youngest import in the league, he averaged 18.0 points. Despite playing professional basketball, White chose to return home and get into coaching. 

White spent three years with Lincoln Middle School in Indianapolis as the team’s basketball and track coach, which included leading LMS to a district title. That led to White getting an opportunity to coach at NCAA Division III Earlham College, a program located in Richmond, Indiana. 

His responsibilities included player development, scouting, and recruiting. During his time coaching, Earlham recorded the most conference wins in a season in 15 years and led all Division III schools in three-point field goal percentage as a team. 

“At the time, Earlham had hired an assistant, but fired him midseason,” said White. “I talked to the coach and he asked if I wanted to be a full-time coach. We had so much improvement. Earlham went from a team that had won just one game to winning 15 games and leading the nation in three-point percentage.”

However, White was laid off from his coaching job due to COVID-19. The cutbacks included all full-time assistant coaches. White didn’t think he would have a chance to keep coaching until an opportunity came up with Ferrum College. 

Lake Land job

When Brandon Colvin left Lake Land’s men’s’ basketball team as head coach, White had an interest in the job. The Lakers ultimately promoted assistant coach Julian Larry.

“At the end of the day, all I want is to see Lake Land win like we did when I played,” White said. “Those teams were pretty darn good.” 

White said he frequently chats with assistant coach Dave Earp and Coach Brown about players. Lake Land freshman Anthony Scales was one of White’s former junior high players. 

“I coached him in middle school and he didn’t have too many scholarship opportunities,” said White. “Figured he could achieve a lot with Lake Land. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does this season.”

For the Right Reasons

White said his dream job would be coaching at Mercer. Through all his awards, which include All-GRAC, All-Region, All-Newcomer Team, numerous conference titles, and beating Duke, being a coach is his most gratifying – watching young players mature on and off the court.

“My whole goal is to help these guys leave a better man than when they came in,” said White. “Just do the little things and everything will work out for you. Five to ten years down the road, they have a wife and kids, and they call to tell me thanks, that’s what it’s all about. Doing right by them and winning will come together. The most enjoyable part is seeing the younger guys grow up to become better people.”