The good news is, the bad news is wrong
White comes back from gruesome injury during football season to play basketball for Lakota
KANSAS — There is just a little less than four minutes left in the third quarter when Jordan White pops off the bench and trots to the scorer’s table.
It is a Wednesday night and the crowd is not great in size.
Lakota finds itself outmatched against a bigger, more athletic North Baltimore and the Raiders go onto lose by 20 points.
But, when White checks into the game with 3:20 left in that third quarter, the Lakota crowd, perhaps, is the loudest it has been all night.
You see, there was a solid chance that White could or should not even be playing. But, despite not scoring any points or grabbing any rebounds against North Baltimore, White is cherishing the fact that he is even on the floor.
“I never even had the thought of skipping my senior basketball season,” White said.
Rewind nearly five months to September 1st at Gibsonburg High School. Lakota is rolling against their biggest rival in any sport, 10-0, in the second quarter. White drops back and makes a clutch interception. He returns it about 20 yards before being tackled. That is where everything goes wrong.
“We were rolling pretty good in the first half,” White said. “It was a pretty big rivalry game, so there was a lot of smack talk. Then, I may have killed the momentum a little bit.”
After a trip to the local hospital and x-rays, White was diagnosed with a dislocated ankle and fractured fibula. The initial thought was that White would miss four-to-six months of action.
“I pretty much remember everything that happened,” White said. “I saw one big guy coming my way and then another trying to tackle me too. My foot just got stuck in the ground and it was broken. At first, my ankle felt funny. Then, I looked down and saw my ankle pointing all the way to the left.”
The senior immediately knew that his football season was over — at least on the field. First-year Lakota football coach Mike Lento knew that there was no doubt that White could be an asset to a team with big things on its mind.
“Jordan is a guy that you can give a role and he is going to do it,” Lento said. “Not many kids go out in Week 2, get hurt and are in a cast, and still call you if they are going to be late to practice.”
But White was not about to let an injury keep him down. Only about 12 hours after one of the most gruesome injuries an athlete can suffer, White was back at the Lakota football field, checking in on his teammates.
“He actually comes in the next morning and we are doing some running and getting loose and he pulls up and wants to be apart of the team,” Lento said. “That just shows the type of kid and caliber of an athlete he was, and still is going to be.”
Lakota scored on the next play after White’s big interception for a commanding 17-0 lead. However, with many thinking about their fallen teammate and a fired up Gibsonburg team, the Golden Bears stormed back to win, 18-17.
“I found out they had lost after the hospital put me under to put my ankle back in place,” White said. “We went back Saturday to get more x-rays and that day was probably worse than the actual injury. The doctor took my ankle and put it up to his chest and I could feel my bones touching each other. That was the worst part.”
White then faced the reality of not ever playing high school football again, but knew basketball season was just around the corner. White said there was no way he was going to miss his senior season of basketball too.
“I first asked if I could be back for football and I pretty much knew that it was going to be a no,” White said. “That time was pretty emotional. The doctors told me to go at my pace, so I really worked hard. I wanted to get back to the court at least and play some basketball.”
Lakota basketball coach Ty Ray quickly acknowledged what White meant to everyone.
“I was not at the football game when it happened, but everybody knew he was an important part to the basketball team because I was getting text messages right off the bat when the game was still going on,” Ray said. “That tells you what he meant to the program and what he means to the fans and community of Lakota.”
White made his debut on the court on Dec. 15 in a 53-41 road loss to Calvert. That was is just 3 1/2 months removed from his injury.
“After talking to the football staff and talking to people in the medical field, we kind of thought that we would not get anything out of him until maybe the first week of February,” Ray said. “That was the earliest and that was if everything went well. Worst-case scenario, we did not think we would have him at all. Honestly, I did not think he would be able to play at all.”
Ray is in an unique position. He has a senior that wants to be on the court, but he knows the long-term health of White is more than important.
“We have had to pull him back and tell him to slow down,” Ray said. “With him rushing back, I have told him that I do not want him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life just to play a few basketball games in high school, no matter what it means to him.”
Ray and Lento echoed what White meant to the team with his natural leadership abilities.
“I have coached basketball at some level for 23 years now and I can count on one hand the kids that have had his mentality and his toughness,” Ray said. “There has only been two or three others that I would put in that category that Jordan has. Those kids are special.”
Ray noted that White was elected a captain before the season, with the team not knowing if White would ever even see the floor.
“With him not even being able to play, the kids still voted him a captain, which tells you the leadership he projects,” Ray said. “He is not a real vocal guy, but you can lead different ways. He leads by example and is out there pushing himself to the maximum of what he is able to do.”
White had just two receptions for 27 yards and two rushes for 13 yards during the football season — both against Gibsonburg. He also had 11 tackles, 19 return yards, and one interception — an interception that will forever live as White’s final high school football play of his career.
“Jordan is a natural leader and he works hard,” Lento said. “He is a selfless leader and he is going to do what you need him to do for the team. He rarely missed anything and he just does things the right way. When you have a kid like that, it is special and makes your job as a coach easier.”
White also found himself in a highlight video for Lakota’s fall sports season. White is shown leading the captains out onto the field for the home game against Ridgedale, which Lakota won, 63-6. Lento also had plans to put White on the field one last time in the home finale against Margaretta had Lakota been able to be in victory formation. Unfortunately for White and the Raiders, Margaretta won, 14-7.
The Raiders lost three games by a combined 14 points. Lento does not necessarily think “what if?”
“I will look anybody in the eye, and because of the type of kid he is and leader he was with our offense and defense, if we have Jordan White, we go 9-1,” Lento said. “The way the guys bonded and having him apart of that — you bring that X-factor in and having him, we are 9-1. It is fun to coach kids like that.”
For now, White is working hard to do what he can for the basketball team. He said he hopes to get some of the screws out of his ankle after basketball season to get motion in his foot before baseball.
“There is still a little bit of pain, but it is nothing too unbearable,” White said. “There is certain times when I run that it hurts. I can still play basketball the way I want.”
And all of Lakota is glad White is playing basketball.