Former St. James Coastal Crew Rebels’ player Michael White recently was named as the new basketball coach at New Life Christian Academy in San Antonio, Texas.
White, who grew up in Macon and attended First Presbyterian Day School but had family in Hinesville, played for Ernie Walthour’s Rebels’ team for three seasons, eventually earning a scholarship to play at Bethune-Cookman College in 2008.
“I had other people trying to get me, like the Atlanta Celtics, but I stayed faithful to the Coastal Crew Rebels because Ernie had helped me out through so many things,” White said. “I was going to school down there, and my stepdad was very sick. He passed away when I was 16, and Ernie had given me a job over at the gym and I was working the concession stand.”
Walthour said White overcame a lot of obstacles, which forced the former Rebel to grow up quickly.
“His daddy had cancer for a year when we first met him, and Michael tried to help his dad and the family and still go to school and he worked,” Walthour said. “His father passed away, and later his mother developed cancer, too. She still has it, but she is hanging on. Michael became the man of the house at a very young age, and he was able to do that, go to college, get a criminal-justice degree, and now he is the head coach of a basketball program.”
After his stepfather’s passing, White stayed in Hinesville to finish school while his mother moved back to Macon.
“After I finished high school, I moved to Macon with my mom, and a couple of months later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer,” White said. “It was kind of hard. I had to take care of her when she was sick. She had surgery at Macon Hospital. I took care of her for a few weeks, and I was going to school and trying to take care of her, and I still had basketball and that season was coming around the corner it was just a lot of stuff.”
“It was real hard on him growing up,” Walthour said. “Some kids had their mommy and daddy in the household, and Michael didn’t have that. His dad was always in the hospital … later, his mother got sick and moved back to Texas. Michael had to leave Bethune-Cookman and move to Texas to help his momma and grandma and go to school. He did what he had to do.”
White handled the pressure and played one season at Bethune-Cookman, where he got to tour many cities across the United States before moving to Texas to be close to his family.
White continued his studies while caring for his mother and elderly grandmother. He eventually walked on to the basketball team at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
“I had to sit out for a semester, but the first year I ended up playing, we ended winning the conference championship and ended up in the NCAA Tournament,” White said. “In the tournament, we lost in the second round to Ohio State, but we made history as a team.”
White said the team was invited to Australia to play in a summer tournament, and he had the best experience of his life.
“But after that season, I ended up leaving because I had too much going on,” White said, adding that his mother’s illness had progressed.
But White still pushed through his studies and finished his degree last May.
“Now I’m here, and I am blessed,” White said about his new coaching career.” Before I got the job here, I was about to go into the police academy. But I’m glad I’m getting the chance to do something that I like doing. I love criminal justice, too, but basketball is my first love.”
“One of his dreams was to go and play college ball and eventually try and play pro ball,” Walthour said. “We are just real glad that we continue to see all of our former Rebels’ players out there doing good things. Personally for me, to see something like this is rewarding.”
White said he is happy to be coaching but hasn’t given up on his NBA dream.
“Being a coach is a great start,” he said. “I feel like I was born to do this … being around Ernie and other coaches … but I don’t think it’s going to stop there. Although I’m coaching right now, I’m still working out, still enjoy basketball when I can … I have to be ready, because you never know what is going to happen … if I ever get the opportunity, I would like to return. But for now, my heart is set at New Life Christian Academy.”