Saint Francis’ Chandler White is playing to his potential – finally

Saint Francis junior forward Chandler White feeds a pass to a teammate during a practice at the Hutzell Athletic Center MOnday. (By Tom Davis of
Saint Francis men's basketball coach Chad LaCross speaks to his team following a practice at the Hutzell Athletic Center Monday. (By Tom Davis of

The transition for an athlete from NCAA Division I basketball to NAIA Division II should be a seamless one from a talent standpoint, and in the case of Saint Francis junior forward Chandler White it was – at times.

However, what was much more difficult was the adjustment that the former Carroll High School standout had to make mentally after leaving the University of Toledo for the Cougar program.

“Anytime that you get a kid that transfers from a Division I program,” veteran Saint Francis coach Chad LaCross told Monday, “to an NAIA program, sometimes he wonders ‘How hard is this going to be?'”

As it turned out, really hard.

Saint Francis may be an NAIA program, but when it comes to the expected level of dedication and diligence, there isn’t a college program at any level that exceeds what LaCross asks of his guys.

The No. 8-ranked Cougars (25-7) will travel to No. 6-ranked Indiana Wesleyan (25-7) tonight at 7 p.m. for the Crossroads League Tournament championship, and yes, this game will be hard.

“I think Chandler found out pretty quick just how hard it is,” LaCross said. “He can’t go through and just be here (mentally) half of the time. He has to be 100 percent engaged.”

White has been this year.

As a sophomore, White had mixed success for the Cougars, which wasn’t what he – or the Cougar fans – expected from him.

Yes, he started 28 games (out of 34) and he even put up some decent numbers (12 points per game on 50 percent shooting), but it was far from what an athlete with White’s talent level and physical gifts should have contributed.

LaCross takes a bit of the blame for that.

“Last year, we started Chandler at the point,” LaCross explained, “but in the second half of the year we took him off of the ball.”

LaCross adjusted his offense to create opportunities for White to be more of an aggressive driver, as opposed to thinking about creating for others so much. The results would have shown more, but White battled injuries late in the year, which cut into his ability to produce or even play in some games. However, White has been healthy this year and the Cougar coaches have liked what he has brought to the floor.

LaCross met with White last spring and told him to start utilizing his strength and athleticism more, and to think like a hard-nosed player, not like a finesse scorer.

“He is now doing the little things,” LaCross said. “He is getting on the floor, rebounding and defending. He has taken that role and ran with it.”

White has already made more free throws this season (93) than he did all of last year (83) and he is attacking the glass with a much higher level of ferocity.

As a sophomore, the 6-foot-3, 210 pound athlete grabbed at least five rebounds in 12 games, but that number has increased to 21 this year, and the Cougars could potentially play six more times.

White has raised his rebound average from 4.3 to 6.6 (7.2 in conference play) and has grabbed at least 10 boards in eight contests.

“When we are at our best,” LaCross said, “he is playing above the rim.”

The last time that Saint Francis battled Indiana Wesleyan, White notched a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds), which the Cougars could need tonight.

“The biggest thing with Chandler has been his approach to not only games, but also practices,” LaCross said. “He has been outstanding this year. It’s almost like he’s a different person.

“Mentally, he’s been engaged every practice and comes in wanting to practice, wanting to get better.”

That is fantastic news for White, LaCross and the Saint Francis faithful.

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