I was late to the game as a boy when it came to sports. I really couldn't give a hoot about professional or college athletics. That all began to change in the late summer of 1965 when I became aware of an awesome southpaw, Sandy Koufax. I quickly became fixated on the Dodgers' World Series match with the Minnesota Twins. Koufax winning game seven on two days rest really started to stir my passion for sports. But it took a night in late February to really cement my love.
It was a Kansas basketball game. My family had made the trip to Lawrence from Abilene as my oldest sister was to perform with a high school dance troupe at half time. I watched the game on television from 9th Street and Wellington Drive in the home of Jack Mason, a family friend. It was the first time I had ever watched the Jayhawks. It was the first time I ever saw JoJo White.
The Jayhawks blew out Nebraska that night 110 to 73 and I was hooked. Walt Wesley and JoJo White were my newest heroes. I cried when Kansas lost in double overtime to Texas Western (UTEP) due to an officials call that JoJo had stepped on the boundary on a game winning shot.
JoJo was why I was at that game. I remember how disheartened I was when the team was bounced by Dayton at the then prestigious NIT tournament that year. And then how when JoJo had used up his eligibility, Kansas couldn't even make it out of the first round of the NIT. White left Kansas twice being named an All American twice and with a gold medal from the 1968 Olympics.
White went on to enjoy a great career with the Boston Celtics where he helped win two NBA titles. With his passing Tuesday night most of the obituaries and tributes centered on his place in basketball history and his run with Boston.
I'm here to state without question that JoJo White is the best point guard in Kansas history. He played for a very good coach, Ted Owens, who ruined more guards than any coach in NCAA history. Owens believed in feeding the big men and was quick to sit guards who missed open jump shots. White could have averaged at least five points a game more if Owens had been more lax.
White could defend, almost as well as one of the other great guard's during Ted's tenure, Darnell Valentine. The only other point guard that belongs in the conversation of these two is Jacque Vaughn. He was a great distributor of the ball and he could score. Jacque lacked the defensive chops of the other two. Others might argue that Kirk Hinrich, Sherron Collins or Frank Mason should rate as number one. White was the best ever. He succeeded in an offense that wasn't suited to his skills. He was a tremendous player in the NBA, something the other five guards we've mentioned can't claim. And finally, he was a two-time All American, something that none of the others can claim.