Dec. 17, 2001
Berkeley - It didn't take long for Amber White to realize just how much time basketball at the collegiate level required.
"In high school, you'd go to practice and then there'd be time to do other stuff," said White, a social welfare major at Cal, the No. 1 rated public university in the U.S. "Here, you have weights and meetings and practice, and weights and meetings and clinics.... It's a full-time job."
Not that she's complaining.
After taking a peek at this year's schedule and seeing that Cal will travel to the Bahamas in early January, the 6-foot junior forward decided that a little extra work might not be so bad.
"We'll be looking forward to that one," White said of spending New Years Day at the Nassau Knockout tournament in Bahamas. "I don't know how we got to go there, but I'm happy about it. I don't ask any questions. I'll just be there."
White is returning to a Cal team that finished last season 12-16 overall and tied for sixth place in the Pac-10. This year the Golden Bears are determined to beat every conference team it faces at least once. With only one returning starter and seven freshmen on the squad this season, added pressure is being placed on the upper-classmen to step up and take charge.
Now starting her third season at Cal after a successful prep career at Narbonne High School in Los Angeles, White understands that it will take nothing less than a full effort to achieve the goals set forth by herself and her team.
That includes more responsibility for White, who came off the bench last year but still averaged 25 minutes a game. Playing primarily small forward, she averaged 4.6 points per game and led all Cal reserves in rebounding with 4.7 per game. This year, White's looking to start more and is already being looked to play several positions including both forward spots and point guard.
"I know all the plays now and I understand the system," White said. "I've been (power forward) and I don't even have to go over the plays in practice because I've already been there."
In high school White competed as an all-purpose basketball player, but became a defensive specialist midway through her prep career after she could tell that's where her team was weakest. "I don't like being scored on at all," she said.
White first dribbled a basketball competitively in the sixth grade and instantly fell in love with the sport. She dabbled in track and volleyball during her youth, but always returned to basketball.
"I ran track one year and then our coach started making us run around the school," she said. "I didn't like that. I quit track because I had to run."
After choosing Cal to remain close to family living in Southern California and Sacramento, White began studying social welfare. Right now her plans call for post-collegiate basketball play and she hasn't solidified a back up plan should option one fall through.
Since her senior year in high school, White's spent her summers working with children at a camp in San Pedro. Two years ago she and fellow basketball players started a series of sports clinics where up to 30 children a week have the opportunity to learn about sports.
"I don't know every sport, but we try to teach them all," White said. "Each week we focus on a different sport, but basketball gets two weeks."
Last year White was named Cal's Defensive Player of the Year after playing in each of the Bears' 28 games while suffering through an ankle injury she sustained late in her freshman season.
This season White, who's become one of Cal's top defenders in her first two seasons, is working on becoming more of an offensive threat. Between her freshman and sophomore seasons she bumped her points-per-game average by three (4.6 ppg from 1.6 ppg) and dished out more than twice as many assists. By the time her career as a Bear is through, she hopes to be remembered as being a well-rounded player.
"I want to be known as the most versatile player," she said. "That's a reason why I don't mind taking on the challenge of playing point guard. The (small forward) position is my favorite and I'd prefer never to have to play (power forward) again, but I'll do whatever the team needs."
--By Tim Haran