By Sarah Leggett, GoDuke the Magazine
Jack White brought some valuable international basketball experience to Duke as a freshman last year. He played for his native Australia in the FIBA U17 World Championships in 2014, in the FIBA U19 World Championships in 2015 and helped his Victoria Navy team win the U20 Australian Junior Championships in 2016, earning male junior player of the year honors. A product of the Australian Institute of Sport, he played in 10 games for the Blue Devils, scoring 21 points with 13 rebounds. He should find more opportunity to contribute this year. He sat down during preseason for a Q&A about his life here and abroad.
What was it like coming to the U.S. from Australia?
It was a bit of an adjustment at first, mainly an adjustment to basketball. I think of the U.S. like Australia on steroids … everything is just bigger and what not. It took me a little bit to adjust to the speed of the game and the athletes because I was used to being the most athletic guy when I played in Australia. Our team last year and this year is crazy athletic, so I had to get used to playing with guys like that. I like to think of Australian basketball as a mix between European and the U.S. in a way. It’s not really one or the other, but it’s definitely slower compared to here.
Had you traveled to the U.S. prior to coming to Duke?
No, except for my (recruiting) visits. I was lucky enough to travel with the national team to Europe and different cities in Asia.
What’s the biggest difference between your town in Australia and Durham?
First of all, Durham is probably 10 times the size of my hometown, but it doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t really feel like a huge difference. I’m from a small country town and I think Durham has that feel. There aren’t a lot of distractions around and that’s one of the things I like … I can focus on basketball and school and not be distracted. It didn’t feel too different in that regard coming over here and that made the adjustment a lot easier.
What’s your favorite thing about Australia that you don’t have here?
My friends and family, to be honest. I lived away from home for a couple of years before coming here so I was somewhat used to it, but being farther away with the time difference definitely makes a huge difference.
Has your family visited yet?
Not yet. They will probably come around mid-January when we start conference play so they can see a few games in a row. I’m waiting on that.
Do you consider yourself a Durham native with a 919 cell phone number?
Not until I lose the accent, and I’m not going to let that happen.
What is the biggest difference between the Institute of Sport and Duke?
At the Institute of Sport, everyone who resides there are athletes. Last year when we were in the dorms there were … I don’t want to describe them as regular students because they’re all awesome … non-athletes. The school itself that I went to in Australia isn’t a part of the Institute of Sport. Here, everything is in one place which is very convenient and a cool atmosphere to be a part of, especially when all the students are in the sporting spirit. It’s just a really great environment.
For breaks, do you stay with teammates?
For fall break, I went back to Virginia with Javin (DeLaurier) and hung out with his family for a few days. During Christmas break last year, I met up with my family in Hawaii and that definitely isn’t a bad meeting point in-between. The only time I have time to go back to Australia is after the spring semester. I was home for six-and-a-half weeks during the first summer session and came back to Durham for the second session.
What is the weirdest thing about the U.S.?
The thing I probably hate the most is tax. When you go to buy something in Australia, the tax is already in the price. If I go buy something here that’s $10 and I go to the register and it’s $11 … that annoys me.
As a sophomore, are you more comfortable with everything related to basketball?
Definitely. Last year was a big year in becoming acclimated to the game and the system of play. I didn’t play a lot last year, but every day I was going up against Grayson (Allen), Luke (Kennard), Jayson (Tatum) and Matt (Jones), so I definitely feel I’m better as a player and understand the game a bit more. I’m looking forward to competing this season.
Was there anyone on the team last year that took you under their wing and showed you the ropes?
I definitely try to emulate Grayson in a way. He’s one of my best friends on the team. I knew coming in that he didn’t play a lot during his freshman year so I knew it would be a challenge coming in. I wanted to compete for my spot and earn it. I’ve looked up to how he has progressed throughout the years and how he’s always working hard, focused and always doing the right things.
What is some of the different lingo you have in Australia?
I definitely have some slang. I say “mate” a lot and have gotten the guys to say that. This is awkward sometimes when I’m not thinking and I call flip-flops “thongs,” so that’s a bit of an interesting mix-up when I think about it. I abbreviate words and slur my words, which makes me feel good because it means I’m not losing the accent.
What other accent do people think you have besides Australian?
Usually, people will automatically know I’m Australian, which I’m happy about. Sometimes people think I’m British which is okay, but I’m not okay with New Zealand. I think New Zealanders have a weird accent.
Do you think Americans have a weird accent?
You guys have the most proper accent for the English language. The Australian accent is just kind of … whatever. Like they don’t really care.
What’s your opinion on Vegemite?
A lot of people are a bit skeptical on Vegemite. I grew up on it and I love it, but it’s all about quantity and how you eat it. I have it on toast or sandwiches. If you were to give someone pure Vegemite, they would think it was bitter. I had three jars of it for the apartment and it somehow got thrown away and I was devastated. I’ve gotten a few of the guys to eat it but most of them are not about it.
What’s the biggest misconception Americans have about Australia?
That it’s such a dangerous place with all the animals. Like you’ll get bit by a spider and die … I promise you’ll be fine.
Do you see kangaroos a lot?
People compare kangaroos to deer over here. Sometimes you’ll see them at fields. At the Institute of Sport, I would wake up in the morning and they would be outside my window, so they’re more common in different parts of the country. They’ll hop out in the roads sometimes and you’ll see them around.
What’s been your favorite Duke memory so far?
Winning the ACC championship. Four games in four days was unreal.
Have you become a leader to some of the new guys on the team?
I feel like I have. I like to think of myself as a fairly vocal guy on the court, especially after having last year to adjust. We have eight freshmen this year so I understand where I fit in and helping those guys and getting them up to speed. I definitely feel like I’ve become more of a leader and hopefully that continues to progress throughout the year.