Coby White wasn’t born when Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway scored 46 points against Emery County in 1989 in the Holiday Invitational.
But, at least for one year, White, the 6-5, 170-pound senior guard from Greenfield School in Wilson, and Hardaway, who played 15 years in the NBA, will be linked together in the tournament record books.
In a 85-63 win over Kinston in the David West Bracket of the John Wall Invitational on Wednesday, White scored 46 points, tying his season-high. That mark ties him with Hardaway for fourth all-time for single-game scoring at the high school basketball event.
White also scored 46 points the last time he played in Raleigh, on Dec. 2, a 94-76 loss to Garner. It’s something about the Capital City, apparently, that brings out the best in the five-star guard.
“I don’t know,” White responded with a smile when asked what was it about Raleigh that got him going. “I want to win, so I’m going to do what I can to win the game.”
White, a UNC commit who is averaging 30.8 points per game this season, had 27 at halftime. He hit 12 of 23 shots, went 3-for-7 behind the 3-point line and knocked down 19 free throws.
Knights’ head coach Rob Slater used the word relentless to describe White’s game. Kinston head coach Perry Tyndall tried to throw everything at the future Tar Heel, but nothing worked.
“We knew we were up for a challenge facing him,” Tyndall said. “The kid plays with a pace that’s pretty special. You’re trying to pick him up, and he’s getting the outlet. The next thing you know, we had guys back (on defense) and he’s beating guys back.”
White, the No. 2 player in North Carolina according to 247Sports, said scoring points in transition is what gets him going. After he scored three in a row he felt he was on pace for a big night.
“I could feel my juices flowing, I was hot,” White said, “And my guys were just feeding me the ball.”
White’s classmate and Georgia Southern commit, Elijah McCadden, has 12 points and led the Knights with seven assists . McCadden knew White was feeling it and tried to get the ball in his hands as often as possible.
“My mindset is to keep being aggressive but at the same time keep feeding the hot hand if he’s open,” McCadden said.
The all-time single-game scoring record for the Holiday Invitational is 54 points scored by Mike Miller in 1997. The top tournament scoring record is 115 points scored by former Garner and UNC guard Donald Williams, a mark he set in the 1990 tournament.
If White wants to eclipse Williams, he would have to average 38 points the rest of the tournament. For now, he is concerned with wins and being mentioned in the same breath as Hardaway.
“I don’t know what to say,” White said. “Penny Hardaway is one of the greats and to be compared to him, that’s a heck of an accomplishment to me. It means a lot to me.”