Andrew Bogut doesn’t need to score to be a match-winner for the Sydney Kings, Damian Martin has done it successfully for years with the Perth Wildcats and Illawarra Hawks skipper Kevin White is another NBL player universally respected without having to light up the stats sheet.
White will lead the Hawks into battle on New Year’s Eve at WIN Entertainment Centre against the Brisbane Bullets in an important game for both clubs as they try to remain in touch with the fourth placed Adelaide 36ers, who are now on a four-game winning streak.
It will be a significant moment for White when he leads the Hawks onto the floor on Monday evening too as he celebrates a 200-game milestone that he was told by plenty of people along the way he wouldn’t be capable of reaching.
It is to his everlasting credit that he is now about to reach the 200-game mark and that he has done so based upon nothing but hard work and dedication, and ensuring he is the ultimate team man, leader, defender and that he does all the little things to make a team successful.
While the NBL is littered with hugely gifted natural talents right now, ranging from Bryce Cotton, Casper Ware, Jerome Randle and Melo Trimble to Australian stars Nathan Sobey, Jarrad Weeks, Nate Jawai, Todd Blanchfield and Chris Goulding, any team needs a player like White to bring it all together.
For years now, Martin has led the Perth Wildcats with distinction as he approaches NBL game 300 as a four-time championship winner, three-time championship captain, Grand Final MVP, six-time Best Defensive Player and an Olympian.
He has done that without ever needing to score. Sure, he has scored when needed to and made some massive baskets over his career. But he doesn’t need to in order to be a match-winner with his defence and leadership likely the best ever seen in the NBL.
Then you have Bogut who has joined the Sydney Kings this season after his 753-game, championship-winning NBA career. He is scoring 11.3 points a game, but it’s not that which is making him such a difference-maker for his team and a sure-fire MVP candidate.
It’s the fact that Bogut is rebounding the best in the league, blocking plenty of shots, dishing out assists and even more importantly setting screens, boxing out and providing the guidance and leadership that only someone of his experience and knowledge can do.
Those are things that can’t be measured and it’s a similar story for White with the Hawks. He might not be at the level of influence on games as Martin and Bogut, but he’s every bit as important to how Illawarra performs with the leadership and hustle he provides.
It’s an immeasurable trait to be a player that makes your teammates walk taller just by having you by their side and out there with them, but there’s no doubt that’s the case for the Hawks players when White is there with them.
That’s perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay a player and White is someone who deserves tremendous respect for reaching 200 games when right throughout his career he has continues to work to silence the doubters.
The fact that he’s about to become a 200-game player and is captain of his club says it all and he rightfully is proud to be reaching the milestone.
“It means a lot. It’s something that not a lot of people get to achieve and when you do get to achieve it, it’s special,” White said.
“Any professional sport where you can play 200 games probably means you’ve had a pretty successful career give or take championships and everything else that haven’t come in my 200 games, which has been unfortunate.
“I would like to win one eventually by the time my career is done, but what you learn more and more is that everyone has adversity they go through.
“The more guys around the league I get to meet, the more I realise how common it is that everyone has been through numerous types of setbacks and overcome adversity.
“It’s a credit to the league and to the people that have helped me get to where I am that I now reach a milestone like this which obviously means quite a bit.”
To be captain of his club in the NBL is something that White takes enormous pride in and it’s something that he is even more proud of because of the obstacles he’s overcome like the constant doubters or the hurdles off-court like his father’s illness and ultimate passing earlier this year.
To have stuck through all of that and now be captaining one of just eight NBL teams and to be a 200-game player is something he couldn’t be happier about.
“Being captain is special. Even last year, I didn’t really realise when they first came to me and asked me to represent the club as captain the responsibility that it is because Ozzie and Rhys were still here around the club and having been leaders for so long, they had such significant influence in the Illawarra,” he said.
“I didn’t really realise how special it was until those guys moved on and people around town started calling me captain and skipper. That showed how much the role means and obviously spending the off-season with Greg (Hire) over in Rockingham (WA’s State Basketball League) and spending so much time with him, I realised the importance a leader can have on a club.
“He is in a leadership role over there and it makes it more significant, and I’m very fortunate to be captain of the only foundation club left in the NBL. There’s not many guys that can say that and it’s a very proud thing to wear the captaincy in my 200th game.”
The 200-game milestone to close 2018 isn’t the only big moment set to take place in White’s life any moment now either with his partner Rachael due to have given birth to the couple’s first child on Friday.
White is hoping all goes well and he’s able to celebrate his 200-game milestone while the baby arrives healthy and happy either before or after he gets to enjoy what would be a crucial win against the Bullets.
“We kind of joke about it because there’s a little betting pool going on with our team and Brian (Conklin) has the 31st,” White said.
“He is hoping that Rach goes into labour and I’m allowed to play, and then when we get out of the game I can make it to the hospital in time. It does make it extra special having a milestone game around the time of our first baby regardless of whether it comes before or after.
“Rach and I are blessed because the older you get and the more people you meet you realise how lucky you are to be able to have children, and how fortunate we are that it has gone well for us.
“Rach and I fell pregnant relatively quick and she’s had a pretty decent pregnancy which has made my job of playing and everything easier. We are very fortunate that we are about to witness the birth of our first child and we’re extremely lucky and proud to become parents.”
NBL Round 11 Fixtures (AEDT)
Melbourne United 101 lost to Adelaide 36ers 103
Sydney Kings 75 defeated Brisbane Bullets 68
Adelaide 36ers 109 defeated New Zealand Breakers 98
Illawarra Hawks v Brisbane Bullets – WIN Entertainment Centre 5.20pm
Cairns Taipans v Perth Wildcats – Cairns Convention Centre 7.50pm