Duke

How Duke bench player Jack White brought down the house in win over Notre Dame

Duke’s Jack White had one of the more exciting five-point, seven-rebound games you’ll ever see Monday against Notre Dame.

Grayson Allen was beside himself, the Blue Devils senior smiling, laughing, swinging his arms, clapping his hands.

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Duke forward Jack White (41) lofts a ball to score over Notre Dame forward Austin Torres (1) in the second half of play. Duke beat Notre Dame 88-66 at Cameron Indoor Stadium In Durham, N.C., Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

The Cameron Crazies were chanting White’s name, albeit without an Aussie inflection.

At one point, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski popped off the bench after a hustle play by White, corralling the sophomore forward during a timeout and giving him a whack on the back.

Allen, who had 18 points and eight assists in the fourth-ranked Blue Devils’ 88-66 win, was chosen for the postgame interview with ESPN. Alongside him was White -- nothing new for Allen, all new for White.

“My first,” White said. “It was great. It was cool.”

Much air time?

“A little bit,” he said. “The cameras go to Grayson a lot. But he tried to be generous.”

White’s role on the fourth-ranked Blue Devils is clearly defined: provide energy. At 6-7 and 226 pounds, with broad shoulders and a sturdy build, he appears to be a banger, a set-a-screen, hit-the-boards type of player, but Allen said that’s deceiving.

Allen said his scouting report on White would read: “Strong, physical wing guy. He can knock down shots, too. That’s going to come.

“He’s one of our best rebounders because he’s so athletic he can explode straight up. He’s strong and he just goes and gets it with two hands.”

White did that in the first half, rising high to beat Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III to the ball and slam in a putback with both hands. On the play that had Coach K on his feet and headed White’s way, White went into the lane to snatch an offensive rebound that set up a 3-pointer for the Blue Devils.

“Those are big plays because they’re deflating for the other team,” Allen said.

White said he has a 39-inch vertical leap, but that he had shed a few pounds in the course of the season and “might be trying to break 40.”

“It depends on how young I feel,” he said, smiling.

White’s 14 minutes against the Irish were a season high — he’s averaging 5.9 a game — as were his rebounds and points. He also knocked in his first 3-pointer of the season, bringing the house down.

“I was just trying to play hard and have fun and I was fortunate to have some plays go my way,” White said. “I just kept trying to feed off that.”

White is from Traralgon, Victoria, Australia, about 10,000 miles from Durham. It’s a city of 25,000 in the Latrobe Valley in the Gippsland region of Victoria, in southeast Australia, and claims a former Nobel Prize winner: Sir Macfarlane Burnet, who shared the Prize for physiology and medicine in 1960.

White got the attention of the Blue Devils playing for the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. He first considered Boise State, but Duke offered a more high-profile program and the opportunity to play with and against the best in college basketball.

“I was lucky enough to play international basketball and that put me on the map a little bit, playing for my country,” White said.

It didn’t hurt that Patrick Hunt, whom White calls a “basketball legend” in Australia, was his coach at the Australian Institute and knew Krzyzewski through FIBA. “I guess it just worked out from there,” White said.

It’s still hard to say how the rest of the season will work out for White. Will the Notre Dame game be his highlight of the year — his 14 minutes of fame — or the start of something else, especially when Krzyzewski looks down his bench?

“He’s always positive, always encouraging,” freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. said. “He’s like the glue. He keeps everybody together and moving.”

The only thing missing, apparently, is a good nickname for the Aussie.

“He’s just Jack,” Allen said. “We do need to find one.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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