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Aussie Jack White living his dream with Duke Blue Devils and Coach K

It may have a capacity of only 9,314, but Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of the Duke Blue Devils, is a magical place. There's something about the Gothic architecture, the brass railings and decorative wood paneling, as well as the university's maniacal courtside student section -- nicknamed the 'Cameron Crazies' - that seems to be packed regardless of the opponents, that makes watching basketball in Durham, North Carolina, an experience like no other.

The intimate atmosphere is the antithesis of most modern-day stadiums, which are designed, before anything else, to make money; Australian sophomore Jack White, who is living his basketball dream at Duke University, is emphatic when asked about his experience with the program.

"It's awesome!"

Hailing from Traralgon in Gippsland, Victoria, White grew up loving basketball. For years, it had been his dream to play in college, but he never expected that he'd get the opportunity to do so in one of the most magnificent stadiums in all of the U.S., for one of the greatest college basketball coaches in history in Mike Krzyzewski, alongside some of the best young players in the nation.

Coming out of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, White was recruited by a number of schools, including Boise State, Hawaii and Temple. Boise State already had developed an Australian pipeline that had seen Anthony Drmic, Nick Duncan and Igor Hadziomerovic suit up, and White was certainly considering them given his relationship with former National Basketball League player and then Broncos assistant coach John Rillie.

"[They play in] a strong conference. Their program is building up and heading in a good direction. I was feeling really good about it," White told ESPN of his thoughts about Boise State.

Just as White was ready to make his decision, however, he got called up to play for Cairns Taipans in the NBL after one of their players went down with an injury. He decided to put all college talk on hold.

"While I was at Cairns, Duke came, a few other schools came -- really good schools -- and I was still considering staying home and playing pro in Australia," he said.

"Once my time at Cairns ended, I was clueless. I was on the phone to my coach at the [AIS] every day just trying to work out what I wanted to do.

"It was hard to say no to Boise [but] I knew that if I want to go to college [Duke] is the place to be."

White loves to challenge himself. He is not someone who will ever look for the easy way out, and this was one of the deciding factors in why he chose Duke.

"[I wanted to] really challenge myself to get better, and playing against future NBA players every day [helps me do that]."

"[Having the opportunity to] play in front of great home crowds, playing for arguably the greatest coach of all time -- the greatest in my opinion -- and just being around a program that has great tradition and great culture, it wasn't really a hard decision."

The opportunity to play for one of the greatest programs in college basketball history comes with some sacrifices, of course; namely in the amount of minutes available to White. As a 6-foot-7 wing, he has had to compete with players such as five-star recruits Jayson Tatum and Gary Trent Jr. as well as four-star recruit Alex O'Connell for playing time. He's averaging just over five minutes per game this season, and that is unlikely to increase unless the Blue Devils suffer a couple of injuries.

"Where I was at, development wise, I was a bit of a late bloomer," White said when asked if he had considered, when choosing Duke over Boise State, the likely reduced playing time.

"I just wanted to be a part of a program where I could be challenged every day. Against the best guys around the country here in the U.S., playing against the best teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is, in my opinion, the best conference in the country."

"It was definitely something that was in my head, something that I understood coming in, but for me I just wanted to challenge myself. I know it's not going to be all sweet and I'm not going to be playing 35 minutes a game, so I wanted to go through some adversity and work out how to handle it and just come out better on the other end."

That's exactly the type of person that White is: He's hardworking, egoless and, above all, a fantastic teammate. You will never see him sitting on the sidelines sulking. Instead, he is always encouraging his teammates and cheering them on during every made 3-pointer or defensive stop.

White actively tries to bring this mentality to the team on an everyday basis. Besides being a good long-range shooter and defender, he prides himself on his leadership. He has one of the strongest voices on the team, and he strives always to make sure everything is running smoothly. This leadership is invaluable in a team with seven freshmen, and it's one of the reasons why Coach K, a five-time NCAA tournament-winning coach and three-time Olympic gold medalist, loves having him around and why the two have such a strong relationship.

White was full of praise when asked what Coach K means to him and the Duke program as a whole.

"It's an absolute honour [playing for him], especially at this stage of his career when no one really knows how much time he has left coaching. For me, I'm just hoping he's around for my time here.

"For the most part, he just keeps things simple. He trusts his players a lot, he believes in us a lot, gives us a lot of freedom to just play. It's crazy.

"When it comes down to it, he just wants to win and he just wants to find a way to win. He's going to put guys in a position to be successful. He knows all of our games. He knows which guys work well together. He studies the game day in, day out. Everything he says is about us winning. That's pretty much what he's all about and that's why it's so great to be here."

Away from the basketball court, White is enjoying the academic component of college.

"You're getting a world-class education," he says. "That's really something that I'm trying to take advantage of. It's a great bonus. It's a successful university all around. It's great to be a part of."

White hasn't declared just yet, but he is interested in sports science and plans to major in evolutionary anthropology and minor in sociology. "If I'm here at this university, why not try and get two degrees out of it," he says.

By the time his career at Duke is all said and done, White will no doubt have left nothing on the table athletically or academically. He will also have had the opportunity to play alongside -- and grow friendships with -- some of the best basketball players in the world, including the NBA's Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December and the league leader in 3-point percentage, Jayson Tatum, whose career White has been following closely.

"He's been doing awesome. It's great to see him translate what he did last year into the pros and doing just as well. It's been awesome to see him play like he's been in the league for 10 years."

Tatum went to the Celtics as the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, after the 76ers had selected Markelle Fultz at No. 1 and the Lakers had selected Lonzo Ball at No. 2. This year the Blue Devils have another player who will most likely be a top-three selection in Marvin Bagley III, a powerful 6-foot-11 forward who has been dominant in the NCAA this season (including a 32-point, 21-rebound performance against Florida State in December), and White has been enjoying every moment of the show.

"Marvin is crazy," White says. "The great thing is that he's all about winning. He couldn't care less about those individual numbers. He's just playing hard trying to win. That's the great thing about him and the team as a whole. We just have guys who just want to win and, come March, hopefully he'll be a difference-maker for us."

White is one of many Australians that are well in contention to see success come March, along with Gorjok Gak (Florida), Dejan Vasiljevic (Miami) and others.

Every year it seems like more Australians are landing scholarships at big time programs, which is great for those younger Australians who aspire to play college in the future. We've seen a number of pipelines pop up across the States including, most noticeably, the pipeline as St. Mary's, as well as the pipelines at Eastern Washington, Albany and the aforementioned Boise State. White believes that the latest pipeline could come through Durham.

"I believe it could happen, especially with the direction Australian basketball is going in right now. I don't see any reason why not. We have a lot of great players in the institute now, guys coming over to U.S. high school and going through that."

"That was a thing for me, I wanted to be able to challenge myself and show that Australian basketball can really compete at this level and be successful and if I can help guys make that decision where they can feel comfortable and confident going into bigger schools like this and being themselves and being tough every day then why not. "

It's clear that although Jack may not be getting the publicity that other Australians are -- notably 2018 draft hopefuls Deng Adel (Louisville) and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (Baylor) -- he is one of the most impressive all-round Australian student-athletes. He still has plenty of time to prove himself on the court, but until then, he will continue to cheer on his teammate more than anyone else and enjoy being a part of one of the greatest programs in the nation.

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