Duke’s Jack White on regaining his 3-point stroke
With an up-and-down junior season behind him, Jack White went far, far away from Duke to recover.
A few weeks at home in Australia boosted the 6-7 forward’s spirits. A bothersome hamstring injury healed, he played with his native country’s entry in the World University Games in Naples, Italy.
By early July, White was back in the Triangle for offseason workouts with his Duke teammates.
Last season, he missed 28 consecutive 3-pointers and suffered a hamstring injury that limited him to just six minutes in Duke’s four NCAA tournament games. Now, however, White’s mind and body have recovered enough for him to expect better things in his senior season.
“I definitely just feel refreshed coming back,” White said. “Being with family and friends back home was a great few weeks. I felt really good about representing my country for those two weeks.
“I’m having a lot of fun playing. My body feels good. Been feeling good and healthy and in a good place mentally with everything. I’m looking forward to getting to work with this group.”
White, who was a captain last season, started his junior year well, but his production fell as his 3-point shot failed him and his injury slowed him.
White’s hamstring healed this summer, allowing him to play a key role in Australia winning a bronze medal at the World University Games.
Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer said White’s game clearly benefited from his summer work.
“Jack is in a great place,” Scheyer said. “The experience playing in the World University games was really good for him. His confidence is at a really high level.”
Jack White’s missed threes
Early last season, White looked like a strong candidate for the ACC’s top sixth man. He made at least one 3-pointer in 12 of the Blue Devils’ first 13 games as a reserve, including four of six when Duke beat Clemson 87-68 in its ACC opener on Jan. 5.
At that point, White had averaged 25 minutes per game and had made 21 of 51 3-point attempts, a healthy 41.1 percent, while averaging 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds.
While he continued to rebound well and play solid defense the rest of the season, his shot inexplicably became a weakness. After that strong start, White finished the season at 27 percent on his 3-pointers.
“I was still having fun all the time. I just love playing,” White said. “But it was definitely mentally tough to go through that.”
The out-of-nowhere slump started after White’s 3-pointer with 6:43 remaining in a Jan. 12 game at Florida State put Duke up 69-66. White missed his final two 3-pointers in the game but Cam Reddish’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Blue Devils an 80-78 win.
From there, White missed 26 more 3-pointers in succession, including 10 in a 95-91 overtime loss to Syracuse on Jan. 14 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
As the streak grew, White appeared hesitant when he prepared to shoot. His season stats back that up.
According to Synergy’s advanced statistics, while White hit 45.8 percent of his shots in quick-moving transition offense last season, he shot 25 percent (20 of 80) in spot-up situations.
Most of those attempts came when he took a pass but didn’t dribble before shooting. He hit 18 of 74 (24.3 percent) of those shots.
How Duke benefits from Jack White
White’s streak finally ended on March 2 at home with Miami. The Cameron Crazies cheered extra loudly, chanting “Jack is back” when White hit all three of his 3-pointers to score nine points in an 87-57 Duke win.
“At the end of the day you learn how to go through adversity like that,” White said. “Obviously mine was pretty extreme but I feel good coming out the other end. I’m in a good place. I think if anything now it’s kind of strengthened me with the knowledge of how to work through something like that that’s never happened to you before. In hindsight, as unfortunate as it was, today I think it’s helped me a lot.”
White’s season ended on a streak of nine more missed 3-pointers in a row. He suffered a hamstring injury in Duke’s 73-63 win over Florida State in the ACC tournament final on March 16 and barely played in the NCAA tournament.
His play with the Australian team showed signs of improvement. He made four of his eight 3-pointers, a small sample size but a marked improvement nevertheless. Over the six games in the tournament, White averaged 10.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
It’s White’s overall game, not just his shooting, that will benefit the Blue Devils this season, Scheyer said. White averaged 4.7 rebounds per game for Duke last season with 1.1 blocked shots.
Though Scheyer still said White is a “heck of a shooter” it’s the overall game he appreciates most.
“When he has been at his best for us he has been a game-changer,” Scheyer said. “It hasn’t been just because of his shooting. Shooting should be free. Jack has done that where he’s come back and played his butt off on defense. He’s rebounding. His shooting doesn’t determine his importance to our team.”
FIBA 3-point line distance
White’s shooting, when he’s hitting, increases his importance though. An NCAA rule change designed to make 3-point shots tougher to make could actually help White.
This season, the line is moving back 16 ¾ inches from 20-9 to 22-1 ¾. The new distance aligns the NCAA with FIBA’s rules which govern international basketball.
White always played with the deeper FIBA line until coming to Duke three years ago. When he hit 50 percent of his 3-pointers this summer for the Australian team, he shot them from the longer distance.
The competition for playing time at the wings -- shooting guard and small forward -- will be fierce for Duke this season. In addition to White, the Blue Devils have 6-5 junior Alex O’Connell, 6-7 sophomore Joey Baker and 6-5 freshmen Wendell Moore and Cassius Stanley.
Point guard Tre Jones, who hopes to be more of a scorer this season, is adept at getting his teammates the ball in prime scoring positions.
The wing players who prove they can hit shots figure to earn more playing time. After an up-and-down junior season, White is preparing to be one of those players.