For No. 2, Spotlight Was Off

Posted: March 21, 1987

For Jackie White, being the second woman to join the Harlem Globetrotters was a little like being the second person to break the 4-minute mile. The media attention was, to put it charitably, underwhelming.

The team's sex barrier had been broken a year earlier, by Lynette Woodard, a former Olympian and University of Kansas star, who silenced the skeptics by blending in successfully.

But while the 5-foot, 10-inch White was spared much of the media scrutiny that had surrounded Woodard, she discovered soon after her first game, on Dec. 26, that living up to the standard set by Woodard would prove more difficult than she had expected.

"There was a lot of pressure on me, but I placed a lot of it on myself," she said. "But Lynette told me to just go out there and play ball, because that's what they're paying me to do."

Playing on a male-dominated team was probably the least of her worries. For as far back as White could remember, she had played basketball with the boys.

"I grew up on the playground, playing with guys," she said. "That's where I learned the game."

She and the other Globetrotters will play the ever-cooperative Washington Generals at the Spectrum at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. today and at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

As a seventh-grader at Ivy Junior High School in Fresno, Calif., White was a standout performer - on the boys' team.

She went on to star on the girls' team at San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno and twice was named to Parade magazine's all-America team.

A summary of her collegiate career reads almost like a Globetrotters travel log - stops at Louisiana State, where she made the all-Southeastern Conference team as a freshman; Cal Poly-Pomona, which she led to the NCAA Division II title in 1982, and, finally, Long Beach State, where she received all-West Coast Athletic Association honorable mention in 1985.

White attracted the attention of the Globetrotters at their first tryout camp for women in Charlotte, N.C., in 1985.

"At the end of tryouts, they were so impressed by the talent of the women there that they talked about a possible all-female Globetrotter team," she recalled.

Although only Woodard was selected from the first group of candidates, the Globetrotters kept White in mind, and they chose her after a second set of tryouts last summer.

White downplays any suggestions of animosity between her and Woodard.

"Lynette's being on the team made it a little easier being accepted by the other players," she said. "As far as she and I are concerned, we had mutual respect for each other from our college days. The way I look at it, two are always better than one."

After three months and 63 games with the Trotters, White has learned to live in a state of perpetual motion.

"At the beginning, I didn't have much knowledge about how much traveling the team really did," she said, "but I'm beginning to adjust to it. It still is physically exhausting.

"It's a routine. You wake up every day, pack your clothes and get out on the road. Going to the arena and playing is the easy part.

"The smiles on the kids' faces are the most satisfying part of it for me. That's what we do, that's our job and that's what I enjoy most."

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