Jahidi White: Mountain In The Middle

For all the things Charlotte basketball fans don’t yet know about the Bobcats and their impending NBA expansion season, one thing is fixed as training camp begins. Fixed in a way that only a 6-9, 290-pound player can be.

Jahidi White will have the presence of a mountain on the low block.

“He has the body,” said Bobcats General Manager & Head Coach Bernie Bickerstaff. “He’s big and he’s strong and he takes up a lot of space.

“He can set screens and go to the boards. And you know what he really does, he commands respect because of his size. Fear is a big factor. We’ve got to use that to our advantage.”

That part of White’s game hasn’t changed through his six seasons in the league. And it won’t change this season, no matter how the roster and the future decisions on a starting lineup and rotation eventually shake out.

“I don’t know at this point what my role will be here,” White said Tuesday after the Bobcats completed the first of two daily training camp workouts. “Coach and I haven’t talked about that yet. I’m sure we’ll just see how it goes as we go through camp.”

White, a center/forward from Georgetown and one of Charlotte’s most experienced players, is no stranger to Bickerstaff. The two were together in Washington in the early stages of White’s career, Bickerstaff as head coach and White as a rookie during the 1998-99 season.

White, a St. Louis native, played limited minutes as he learned the pro game and struggled to avoid excessive fouls.

“That’s one of the things I remember about Bernie when I first came into the league with the Wizards,” White said. “He gave me a lot of opportunities to play even though I was a rookie.

“I got in a lot of foul trouble but he still gave me a lot of chances to get back out there on the court and I appreciate that. It really gave me a taste of the game even before I was ready to taste it.”

White averaged only 2.5 points and 2.9 rebounds that season but, working low in the lane, he shot 53.1 percent from the field. His numbers jumped in 1999-2000 when he played in 80 of Washington’s 82 games, scoring 7.1 points, shooting 50.7 percent and collecting 6.9 rebounds.

The following season, his third in the NBA, he led the Wizards in rebounding with a 7.7 average and scored 8.6 points, his career high. He dominated in several ways in a game at Golden State, scoring 23 points with 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.

White’s overall averages dipped slightly in 2001-02 but he had some huge games, gathering 19 rebounds against San Antonio (including a Washington-record 16 in one half). His career averages are matching 6.0 figures in scoring and rebounding.

White played his first five seasons in Washington and was then, one game into last season, traded to the Phoenix Suns for point guard Brevin Knight. As the NBA’s unpredictable fate would have it, White and Knight are now Bobcats teammates and two of Charlotte’s three most experienced players.

“Washington was my first opportunity and that was good,” White said. “I wasn’t disappointed when I was traded last season. You’ve just got to understand that it’s part of the game and that’s how business is done in the NBA. You’ve just got to move on and do your job.”

That’s what he will be doing now with the Bobcats. He said he is happy to be in Charlotte and looks forward to working again with Bickerstaff.

“This is a new opportunity,” White said. “It’s so different now. When I first started with Bernie in Washington I was just going off pure energy and excitement. Now I’m going off energy, excitement and a better understanding of the game. I feel like I have enough experience to help out the young guys here. And also enough experience to know the game more than I ever have.

"I look at every year as an opportunity. Every year is a chance to make the best of your career, to do well and extend your career and to see things in the game that you didn’t see the season before. It makes it somewhat easier, knowing what your coach expects as you begin. You know you have a coach who has a great will to win and knows how to get the best out of a team.

“I just know my style of game is suited for it. I’m a physical player. I always have been. So hopefully I’ll bring that to the team and help us get going as quickly as we can.”

Leonard Laye covered the NBA, ABA and college basketball for more than three decades for the Charlotte Observer and the old Charlotte News until his recent retirement from writing sports fulltime. He will cover the Bobcats for BobcatsBasketball.com throughout the season.