- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

Talk about the Washington Wizards hereabouts usually centers on the big three of Juwan Howard, Mitch Richmond and Rod Strickland. But outside the organization, another name is starting to come up: Jahidi White.
"He can be the difference in what Washington does," New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He's got the body, and he's got the athleticism to give them a real nice presence something they haven't had in a while. He's just got to bring it all together."
Agrees Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd: "If he can become consistent for them, he can help those three out a lot… . That will open up a lot of things for other guys."
That's why the Wizards made signing the 6-foot-9, 290-pound White their top objective in the offseason. The former Georgetown center signed a four-year deal that with incentives could pay him as much as $25 million.
Fresh from a 104-103 win Tuesday night in Chicago, the Wizards continue their preseason run tomorrow night by hosting the Philadelphia 76ers at MCI Center.
Last season White became the starter when it became clear that Ike Austin, whom the Wizards traded four players to acquire, was not the answer in the middle. In his first career start, White scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds against New Jersey. He followed that up with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Unfortunately, there were too many times after that when White was of no value to the Wizards because of foul trouble. White often jumped at the first head fake and found himself in foul trouble before the first quarter was over.
But White, 24, also tantalized the Wizards with his potential as a rebounder, shot blocker and legitimate offensive threat. Now White says he is ready to be a more focused player.
"The key for me is to be able to be more relaxed," said White, who averaged 7.1 points and 6.9 rebounds last season. "Sometimes it's hard balancing the two, being relaxed and being aggressive. I got into too much foul trouble last year and hurt the team. So I'm just trying to find a middle ground where the two are balanced."
On Monday, Van Gundy, who was a big fan of former Knick Patrick Ewing, noted that the ranks of centers has thinned dramatically in the Eastern Conference. Van Gundy was no doubt talking about the Knicks trading Ewing to Seattle, Miami's Alonzo Mourning being lost for the season and perhaps longer because of a serious kidney ailment, and the retirement of Indiana's Rik Smits. This was before Van Gundy had heard that Atlanta's Dikembe Mutombo, another ex-Hoya, would miss the early part of the season because of malaria.
"This is a time when the East is going to be hurting for big men," Van Gundy said. "For [White], that means he won't have as many nights where he will be playing against the type of quality that he was playing against last year.
"The key for him will be to not let up just because those guys aren't there," Van Gundy continued. "He will get better by just being out there. But he's going to have to push himself."
White's response: "I demand a lot of myself. It has nothing to do with the others or anything like that."
In summers past, White has not been as serious about the game as he was this year. His weight, which has been a problem since his college days, is under control now. White attributes this to a summer in which he worked out just about every day.
But nothing better prepared him for the upcoming season than the two weeks he spent in Miami with Mourning. Mourning wanted to have a big body to bang around with to help him get ready for the Olympics. Looking back, White says that the time with Mourning was invaluable.
"It teaches you that you have to go the extra mile," White said. "That's the only way."

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