What would have become of Jatarie White had she stayed involved with dancing and cheerleading instead of playing basketball?
For one, the Providence Day School (Charlotte, N.C.) 6-foot-4 center wouldn’t have led the Chargers to three 3A state titles for independent schools (2010-12). And she wouldn’t have earned a spot on the USA Basketball Women’s Under 16 National Team, which she made in 2012. The recent South Carolina commit also wouldn't have been courted by women's basketball powerhouses like Kentucky, Louisville and Tennessee.
When White switched to basketball at age eight, days spent playing at her local YMCA and the Carolina Comets AAU team contributed to her development into elite status.
We couldn’t deny White the spotlight for the USA TODAY High School Sports’ Ultimate Athlete spotlight — an ongoing, interactive discussion about what sport supersedes the rest, a series featuring athlete profiles, smack talk, training videos and more.
White, who averaged 19 points and 10.6 rebounds per game last season, tells us who she’d like to play against in the WNBA, what playing against older girls has taught her about the game and why she looks up to Lisa Leslie.
What did you learn from your experiences playing with older girls for AAU ball growing up?
White: I learned that I had to make decisions in a quicker amount of time and that I had to have a smarter basketball IQ toward making passes and knowing when to take a shot at the right moment. I realized I couldn’t stand around and wait for something to come to me.
You’re known for your jumper and skillful footwork. Tell us what most helps keep you sharp.
White: I do a lot of ladder drills, and I have to give credit to my trainers, Tom Caruso and Tim Fields.
What’s the role of nutrition when you’re in training mode?
White: Before, I didn’t really have a plan, but now I drink more water and I’ve cut down on sweets. A year ago I started drinking protein shakes every morning.
If you could go one-on-one against any player in the WNBA, who would it be?
White: Brittney Griner. I’d do a spin move and see how that ends up. She’s a really good shot blocker, and I like that she can dunk.
After making the USA Basketball Women’s Under 16 National Team in 2012, what did you learn from your teammates?
White: How to be a better team player because everybody around me was good.
What WNBA player do you look up to most?
White: Lisa Leslie. I read her book, Don’t Let the Lipstick Fool You. It’s about how she was a tall girl growing up and wanted to wear pretty clothing. I look up to how she embraced her beauty. She mentions in the book how she couldn’t find shoes large enough for her feet. That’s my struggle! I wear a size 13.
What advice would you offer younger players?
White: Even though obstacles might come in your face, you have to persevere and work harder than the next person. Somebody else could be getting better and trying to take your spot.