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Jesse White commits to North Dakota State College of Science

Ryan Ladika/MDN Jesse White addresses the guests in attendance for his post-season banquet at White Shield High School April 5.

After spending six years on the varsity squad with the White Shield High School Warriors, North Dakota’s 2021 ‘Mr. Basketball’ will don a new uniform come this fall.

Senior guard Jesse White made official his plans to attend the North Dakota State College of Science and join coach Stu Engen and the Wildcats via an April 7 tweet. The ink has dried on his National Letter of Intent, and he could not be more thrilled to take his next step in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

“It was their history and their winning culture,” White said of what sold him on the Wildcats. “Their coaches are amazing people and they have a great atmosphere, and I love the facility. They have gym hours to help players succeed and they keep it open most of the day. That’s what I was looking for. It’s a college that will definitely help me reach the next level. Reaching Division I, I feel like this is the best college to help me get to my goals.”

White will join a relatively young squad when he arrives on campus, as the 2020-21 team included eight freshman of the 12 total roster spots and produced a 16-7 overall record on the strength of almost 86 points per game. There will be an abundance of competition for time on the court and spots on the roster, which was another key factor in White’s choice.

Coach Sheldon Rush, one of the senior’s two head coaches during his time at White Shield, noted that with many of the other offers White received throughout this past season also came guarantees. Promises that the team would be built around him or agreements that he would have a spot on the team waiting for him.

Engen would make no such guarantees. It was clear from the start that if White chose the Wildcats, he would have to earn his playing time and his way onto the court. The program he has been a part of for so long at White Shield was no different.

“The times we visited with him he said that he didn’t want to be given everything because coach Kroupa and I never gave him everything,” Rush said. “We run a daily challenge, what are we going to do with Jesse today? He’s such a hard worker and he’s so focused and determined, I think that was a huge moment that he wasn’t guaranteed anything, he had to come earn it.”

Jesse made it abundantly clear that he was in search of a program that would constantly push him to be at his absolute best and earn every minute of playing time he received. It was how he was raised, and it was how he eventually became the second-leading scorer in the history of North Dakota high school basketball and later finished his high school career with 2,810 total points.

He fell hard and fast for the Wildcats, as he did not know much about the school or the program before embarking on his college tours.

“I watched them play a couple of times,” White recalled. “I knew they were a pretty good college. When I got there I immediately felt the history of the college and all the good things they do over there, and just felt it was the best fit for me.”

Fortunately for White, Rush has a larger prior connection to the school and knew it would be a good fit for White moving forward while also understanding the gravity and significance of the fact that they were interested in someone who lived and played so far away from campus.

“One of my friends, Jon Berryhill, he’s a legacy there, and his daughter, Airyna Berryhill, signed with them,” Rush said. “I had heard of them, but I know darn well they don’t come out to central North Dakota very often. They get all the athletes from the inner-city and from Fargo. They have a metropolitan area to choose from, so that meant a lot to us for Coach Engen to come out to central North Dakota to look at our player.”

The fact that NDSCS is a two-year program means White’s time with the team will be short, but it will serve as a perfect launchpad to aid him in reaching his long-term goal to play basketball at the Division I level. White does not yet have plans for his next step after NDSCS; he is instead focusing on the path directly in front of him and will do his best to reach his full potential and help the Wildcats in any way he can.

“Playing against talent like he does every summer and all year, they’re going to be surprised,” Rush added. “He wants to get better and he’s very coachable. It’s going to be a showcase for him to demonstrate his skills, his knowledge, and his ability to get his books done.”

In the meantime, it’ll be up to White to prove he belongs on the floor at the next level. Assuming he brings with him his unwavering work ethic and his team- and community-first mentality, he should fit in just fine.

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