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Tuesday March 3, 2009 3:14 PM

James "Flight" White Lands In Houston

Rockets sign high-flying swingman to 10-day contract

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

Houston - James White wants you to know he’s more than just a dunker. That behind all the windmill jams and between the legs throwdowns, there lurks a basketball player brimming with considerable potential.

There’s just one problem: White’s dunks aren’t the garden variety slams witnessed on SportsCenter. Heck, they’re not even the type seen at the NBA’s annual dunk contest. White’s jams are so sick, so jaw-dropping that they demand to be seen – often over and over again – without any regard whatsoever to the other aspects of his game.

But while his dunks created a youtube sensation, they did little to further his dreams of becoming an NBA player. That’s why White, newly inked to a 10-day contract with the Houston Rockets, is working hard to ensure his basketball career ultimately is defined by much more than just his unique ability to elevate above the rim.

“I’ve been working on my game so much just so I can fight that stigma of being just a dunker,” says the 26-year old product of the University of Cincinnati. “If you have ever seen me play this year, you know I’ve been working on my game and I’m more than just a dunker and an athlete. My ball-handling, my ability to shoot the ball, my defense - everything’s gotten better as a player.”

The numbers back up his claim. In 34 games with the Anaheim Arsenal of the NBA D-League, White averaged 25.9 points per game (tied for first in the league at the time of his call-up), while shooting .549 from the field and .368 from beyond the arc. Clearly, his work was paying off and, not surprisingly, NBA teams started noticing.

“I knew people noticed,” says White. “My agent would tell me teams were looking all the time, so I just kept my nose down and kept grinding, and kept having faith that one of the teams would call me up. Fortunately, I got with a good team, a winning organization and a good city so I’m thankful for that.”

But for a player like White, one who is eager to impress and show what he can do, landing with a winning organization like the Rockets can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, he’ll certainly benefit from the excellent coaching and professional, hard-working atmosphere the Rockets enjoy. On the other, playing time is likely to be scarce, given the fact Houston already owns one of the deepest rosters in the NBA.

“He brings us some much-needed athleticism on both ends of the court,” says Assistant Coach Elston Turner. “He’s a guy who can excite the fans with lob catches and put-back dunks. And as bad as we need some shot blockers and weakside help to change a shot – he can do those kinds of things.

“But I have no idea yet where he will fit in right now. For the first time this season, we’re settling in on some chemistry without anybody in-and-out. It’s tough from his standpoint because you have to learn a lot of plays and you have to learn players, but it’s tough from our standpoint, too, because we have to integrate him without disrupting what we’re already doing.

“Look at [Brian] Cook. He’s been here awhile and you see how minutes are still kind of scarce, but he gives us a shooting four which we don’t have. So the chess match, so to speak, with different types of players, we’re trying to put that together as a team to add to our versatility. That way we can go any type of direction with lineup changes either at this point or the future.

“So we’ll just have to work him out and see how he fits and see if he can fit in for the years to come.”

That’s a tall task to ask of someone in the span of a mere ten days. And making White’s situation even more challenging is the fact that, not only will his playing time be limited – if he sees any at all – but so, too, will be his time on the practice court. With the Rockets currently engaged in a stretch which will see them play ten games in the span of 15 days, the club won’t have many opportunities to run through a real practice, further limiting White’s opportunity to showcase himself.

So those are the obstacles standing before the Rockets’ newest addition. And though he made his name by leaping over anything and everything in his path, he made his game through hard work and effort; two things which will have a far greater impact on his ability to overcome the roadblocks which await him at this level.

“Right now they just want to see how quick I can learn the plays and see how I can fit in with the team,” says White. “I was looking at video all night trying to pick up the plays. It’s tough to just come in and learn all those sets the first day, but I’m getting it down. It’s going to be a process since this is a playoff team and everybody is already acclimated. I just have to come in and try to play my role.”

“I just need to continue to work hard, come early, stay late, continue to shoot the ball well and do the things I do and hopefully the coaches see that and give me a chance. And I just have to make the most of whatever chance I get.”

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