Los Angeles Times

White stands tall as freshman at Notre Dame

Son of former football star Russell White has helped Knights reach state championsh­ip.


Zachary White, a 6foot-5, 15-year-old freshman, might be the tallest member of the famous White family.

“We check the milkman, the postman, and he’s the tallest,” joked his father, Russell White, the legendary running back from Encino Crespi High, the University of California and the Rams.

Russell said he measured at nearly 5-9 at the NFL combine in 1993. His wife, Aminah, is 5-9. Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, Russell’s uncle, was 5-10.

“It’s a blessing. We never knew we’d get a tall kid,” Russell said. “It’s nice to stand next to your son and you’re at his chest.”

Zachary is a starting guard for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, which plays at 8 p.m. Friday in the Division I state championsh­ip game at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento against Livermore Granada.

It will be a homecoming for Aminah’s side of the family. She grew up in the Bay Area. Russell also has friends from Northern California, since he played at Cal and once served as commission­er for the CIF Oakland Section.

Don’t anyone doubt where White’s loyalties lie.

“Southern California,” Russell said. “That will never change.”

Russell is an assistant athletic director and eightman football coach at La Cañada Flintridge Prep. He has another son, Xavier, playing football at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.

Zachary never gave football much of a chance.

“I just liked basketball,” he said.

Russell remembers Zachary taking a basketball to school in first grade, though he played a little flag football in middle school.

“He’s not a bad DB,” Russell said.

He’s not a bad basketball player, either. White has filled a vital role for the top-seeded Knights, who have relied on the all-star trio of Dusty Stromer, Caleb Foster and Mercy Miller. White scored 10 points and made two threes in Tuesday’s 80-61 regional championsh­ip win over Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.

White should be playing the wing position but has been needed to play center as a rebounder and post defender when the team is using a five-guard lineup. He made a key shot late in Notre Dame’s win over Sierra Canyon earlier this season at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.

“He’s a freshman, but what he’s been doing is a very mature version of a role player,” coach Matt Sargeant said. “He’s defending at a high level, rebounding and his shooting has been high percentage. He’s been pretty steady throughout the whole year.”

Averaging eight points and four rebounds, White waits for his opportunit­ies. If opponents devote too much attention to the Stromer-Foster-Miller scoring machine, White can burn them.

What’s intriguing is how people react when they learn about White’s father.

“I find it funny. I didn’t get to see him,” he said.

White got some insight walking through the entrance of Crespi’s gym and looking at the school’s Hall of Pride, seeing his father’s photo prominentl­y displayed in the trophy case. He has seen video of his father’s football days too.

“I saw his mixtape from high school and saw a highlight of him hurdling over a guy in college,” White said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy. That’s my dad. That’s kind of hard to believe.’ ”

Dad is enjoying being a fan.

“Zach has taken everything in stride and is enjoying the journey,” Russell said. “I’m most proud of his academics. Basketball is icing on the cake. He’s having a good time.”

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