Once upon a time the Cincinnati Bearcats were the scariest team in America. One player from that era of dominance was James “Flight” White. The high-flying swingman from the Washington, D.C. area spent three years at the University of Cincinnati after transferring from the University of Florida. Known for his abilities to dunk with grace, White was a good all-around player throughout his college hoops career. White teamed up with Jason Maxiell, Erick Hicks, and a host of others to form a defensive, high-flying, Jordan-wearing, not giving a f*** style of basketball that was spearheaded by then-head coach Bob Huggins.
Though, the Bearcats didn’t win a national championship or even make a Sweet Sixteen during that timeframe, people still noticed when they took the floor. Whether if it was Huggins berating his players or a referee, White having his own personal dunk contest or Maxiell swatting a shot into the stands at Fifth Third Arena, that team was a sight to see. In the 2005 NCAA Tournamen, the Bearcats show went to a screeching halt after playing against the Kentucky Wildcats led by Rajon Rondo and Chuck Hayes.
Recently, the former University of Cincinnati star took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with TSFJ about his experience playing against Kentucky in the tournament as well as fur coats, Future’s hit song ‘March Madness’, Nick Lachey and this year’s tourney.
TSFJ: What did the March Madness experience mean to you?
White: To me, March Madness meant a lot. It really brings all the hard work you have done all year full circle. Plus it’s a place to really make your name.
TSFJ: Speaking of March Madness, what do you feel like about Future’s song? Is it a song that would get you pumped up to play?
White: Everyone who has ever been in a club knows how hard the song ‘March Madness’ goes. The other song I can think of that has that effect on people when they hear it is Meek Mill’s intro song from Dreams and Nightmares and maybe ‘Swag Surf’ (lol). It’s definitely a song that makes you want to hoop a bit harder.
TSFJ: How did it feel to play under the bright lights in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis?
White: Playing in the RCA Dome was big time. It was definitely one of those moments you dreamed about coming up as a kid. It was so hyped in there!
TSFJ: UC had a chance to play against UK in the tournament in your junior year. That team featured five
future NBA players (Rajon Rondo, Randolph Morris, Kelenna Azubuike, Joe Crawford and Chuck Hayes) and they had some good complimentary players as well. Did any one player stand out as being tough to guard?
White: Nobody on their team that year was really tough to guard. I started on Azubuike and then Sparks got hot. So I had to put that fire out. To be honest they just had an all-around good team.
TSFJ: Despite losing against the Kentucky Wildcats, what was your greatest memory from that game?
White: My greatest experience in the NCAA tournament was the game against UK. As mentioned it was played in the RCA Dome and it was just a crazy atmosphere. So many people were there, Nick Lachey (yes, that Nick Lachey) was there. Kenyon Martin and DerMarr Johnson came in with big ass fur coats on (lol). It was also playing against that UK team that had guys like Rondo and Chuck Hayes.
TSFJ: I see you mentioned K-Mart and DerMarr Johnson having on fur coats at the UK game. Did they give you guys a Ric Flair-like motivational speech?
White: Those dudes really didn’t really say anything to us, but with them just being there it gave us a boost. Well — it did for me. I actually knew them really well. D.J. was like a big brother and I stayed with him and Kenyon the summer they got drafted in 2000. So I looked up to them.
TSFJ: Do you remember your missed dunk in the Kentucky game?
White: Yeah, that was greatest miss of all-time, you got a great memory (lol), I actually jumped too high and I missed the dunk.
TSFJ: I always hear stories about Coach Huggins being the master motivator. How did his approach change during tournament time?
White: Huggs was the same all the time. He never changed no matter what the situation and we knew what was expected. So he never had to change much.
TSFJ: I know you are playing ball overseas, and you may not get to see a lot of college hoops, but who do you have winning the NCAA title this year?
White: I want to say UC is going to win it all, but if I’m being real I have to go with Kansas. They seem the most battled-tested out of all the teams in the Big Dance. Oh yeah, don’t forget about Michigan State.
TSFJ: How do you think the Bearcats will do in the tourney?
White: I think UC has a chance to get at least to Sweet 16. We have a history of beating the breaks off Oregon (lol), but we shall see.
We at TSFJ would like to thank James White for the interview. To keep up with him follow him on Twitter @Flight8 as he continues his basketball voyage overseas in Croatia.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp
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