LOS ANGELES — If you’re a USC basketball fan, you probably know Isaiah White for his energetic, physical style of play and fiery displays of passion.
Last year, in his first season as a Trojan, he had an instantly iconic moment in the Sweet 16 when he hit a 3-pointer and turned to stare at the Oregon bench then that USC was earning its place in the Elite Eight.
But this past fall, the typically rambunctious White faced a new phenomenon: struggling to stay awake during movie sessions.
On September 18, White’s wife, Jazmine, gave birth to their second child, Xavier. Her daughter, Amari, was just over a year old. The demands of two young kids and the responsibilities of Division I basketball would suffice, but White was also balancing the demands of his master’s program in communications management.
“It was like the first time in my life where basketball, I’m not saying it wasn’t my priority, but it felt like there was so much going on,” White said. “I was definitely not the priority. It was hard. I can’t even explain how I got through this or how I’m doing now.
There are nights when White, a sixth-year senior who transferred to USC before last season from Utah Valley, can’t go home after practice. Sometimes he has to go to class. Other days he has to spend hours in the library doing his homework and studying.
But on days when he can come home, White takes a quick shower before tending to his children, to give Jazmine a little break and some time for herself after a day of parenting.
“She’s a superhero. She carries a lot of the burden when it comes to the kids,” White said. that she is at home fighting with the children, two newborns. She’s an awesome mom. I couldn’t even explain the fatigue experiences and what we went through, but we are tough.
Most parents will recognize this scenario: Xavier wakes up in the middle of the night and starts crying. White and Jazmine are immediately awakened as they check whether to get up or let Xavier go back to sleep. But then the newborn’s cries wake Amari, and she cries. Now both parents are up and taking care of the children.
So in the first few months after Xavier was born, White slept between 3 and 5 scattered hours as boot camp escalated.
“He tried to do his best at times, but you could tell he was just a little slow,” USC head coach Andy Enfield, a father of three himself, said with a knowing smile. . “He wasn’t at his best at the start of the season.”
As a returning starter, White was pushing himself to be better than he did in USC’s Elite Eight race. But with everything going on, White soon found his back and ankles tightening up, injuries he attributes to the stress he was under.
“When I’m here and I’m playing basketball, I’m not really focused on basketball. I’m worried that she’s home alone with two babies in Los Angeles,” White said. “And then when I’m there, when I’m a dad, I’m worried, like, ‘Man, I’m not doing my workouts like I usually would.'”
That was exactly the situation that worried White last March when he considered staying at USC for his final season of eligibility. He already knew Xavier was on the way and was ready to start his professional basketball career without the added responsibility of school.
But his circle, led by his father, told White to stay one more season.
“I wasn’t going to come back. But the degree, I needed it,” White said. “You never know how long you’re going to play, but a degree, especially to be able to tell my kids, I went through all of this and still graduated, so you definitely graduate.”
A former star of Damien High, White’s parents and aunts helped the kids out as much as they could. Their presence was part of the reason White decided to move closer to her Rancho Cucamonga roots, although Jazmine’s mother flies in from Utah when she can.
And the basketball side started to come together. White is no longer a full-time starter, but is healthy again and contributing to defense and energy off the bench.
“I’ve been on teams where I was the best player but we weren’t good. It was, like, awful,” White said. “I feel like we’re [25-5]. So that’s all I feel.
Tuesday’s game against Arizona will be White’s last at the Galen Center, but Senior Night came before the Trojans’ victory over Washington State a week ago. White came onto the pitch with Amari in his arms as he shook hands with his teammates and coaches. Jazmine held Xavier as the young family posed for photos with White’s framed No.5 jersey.
“When Amari gets old and Xavier gets old and they see pictures of their dad playing basketball again at a school like this, I think it will be cool for them and for me to tell them what happened, what happened on,” White said. “If I could do it again this year, I would do it the same way.”