Stilman White an insurance policy that pays another dividend for UNC

Just as he did in the 2012 NCAA tournament, the sixth-year senior came off the end of the bench to make an unexpected contribution in helping UNC hang on for an 83-74 victory at the Smith Center

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
North Carolina guard Stilman White (30)

CHAPEL HILL — The thing about insurance policies is that you hope you’re never in the position of having to use them. But they sure are nice to have around just in case. North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams was reminded of that Wednesday when his own personal point guard insurance policy, Stilman White, resurfaced at just the right time to pay another dividend. With starter Joel Berry on the bench in a walking boot, backup Nate Britt struggling and highly touted freshman Seventh Woods still trying adjust to the college game, Williams looked down to the end of his bench and called on White during the Tar Heels’ game against Davidson. And just as he did in the 2012 NCAA tournament, the sixth-year senior made a meaningful contribution in helping UNC hang on for an 83-74 victory at the Smith Center. “We always knew Stilman had something in him,” teammate Justin Jackson said. “He just never really had his chance. To see him out there contributing what he contributed was good.” White came into the game having played a total of just 24 minutes at the end of seven UNC victories this season. Although Williams suggested that the 6-foot Wilmington native was slated to see more court time than usual against Davidson because “he’s done some nice things in practice running the scout team” and Berry’s sprained ankle, White’s first appearance just five minutes into the game came completely by surprise. It came as part of a unit of reserves sent onto the floor when Williams angrily benched all five of his seemingly uninspired starters. The Tar Heels trailed 10-3 at the time. But with White, sophomore Luke Maye and the freshman trio of Woods, Brandon Robinson and Tony Bradley immediately injecting some badly needed energy into their team, UNC ran off 10 straight point to take its first lead. “We went out there and just played as hard as we could, especially on the defensive end,” said White, who went on to score a career-high six points. “We got some turnovers and some fastbreak opportunities and that got the crowd and the team into it.” White’s early play promoted Williams to go back to him for an extended run in the second half. He didn’t do anything spectacular. But he did what he was told, didn’t make any mistakes while going 6 for 6 from the line, handing out an assist, playing energetic defense and not committing a turnover. “Some days, some people just don’t have it.” he said. “And the rest of the team has to pick them up.” White has a history of picking the Tar Heels up when they need it during a career that was interrupted by a two-year Mormon mission. He was originally signed back in 2011 when Williams got caught short of point guards following Larry Drew’s abrupt departure. White wasn’t expected to contribute much on that veteran team. His role was primarily to work hard at practice, learn the ropes and be there just in case something catastrophic happened. That “just in case” happened when first Dexter Strickland, then starter Kendall Marshall went down with injuries — the latter two rounds into the NCAA tournament. With no other options, Williams summoned White off the end of the bench and the seldom used freshman rose to the occasion. In two games — against Ohio in the Sweet 16 and Kansas in the Elite Eight — White played 60 minutes without committing a turnover while averaging 6.5 assists per game. His 15 minutes of action on Wednesday were by far his most since his magical March in 2012 — four years, eight months and 14 days earlier. It was so long ago that his current freshman teammates were freshmen in high school the last time he saw such meaningful action. And yet, despite the long layoff, UNC’s walking, talking dribbling insurance policy was ready to go as soon as his number was called again. “I was prepared to play because I’d been playing well in practice and all the coaches have been telling me ‘be ready, be ready,'” White said. “I didn’t expect to play that much, to be honest. I was just ready for whatever. “It was a little weird at first. I was a little out of breath. I was letting the momentum of the game take over me. But the second time out, once you get to run around a little bit, get a couple of shots, a couple of free throws, it helps. Going forward, I feel so much more confident that I’ve got some minutes under my belt.” White is hoping to parlay his strong performance against Davidson into more playing time as his final college season goes on. But even if it doesn’t he said he’ll be fine. He’ll simp