Talk about a happy coincidence.
On March 10, Coby White became the first player since Michael Jordan to elicit these goosebump-inducing words from the United Center sound system during the Bulls’ starting lineup announcements:
“From North Carolina! At guard…”
And on Sept. 15, White became the 23rd Bull in franchise history to make an All-Rookie team. Second-unit honors, along with Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat, Terence Davis II of the Toronto Raptors, P.J. Washington of the Charlotte Hornets and Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards.
White received eight first-team votes and 74 second-team votes, leaving him with 90 total points.
RJ Barrett, Darius Garland and De'Andre Hunter, three of the six players picked ahead of White in the 2019 draft, were among the first four left off, in addition to Philadelphia 76ers standout Matisse Thybulle.
Ja Morant, Kendrick Nunn, Brandon Clarke, Zion Williamson and Eric Paschall occupy the first team.
"Second-team All-Rookie was a blessing, was an honor to be part of that," White said on a Zoom call with reporters the morning after being selected. "Felt like my season was up and down, it could have been better, but that's every season."
To that point: This wasn’t a preordained finish to White’s rookie year, which was rocky at times. His season-long field goal percentage falling a hair under 40 percent evidences that. As does his 24.3 minutes per game average through 55 pre-All-Star break contests.
In fact, he was the last 2019 lottery pick to make a start for their team in 2019-20, doing so for the first and last time in what ended up being the Bulls' regular-season finale, a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also notably went unselected for the 2020 Rising Stars game that took place the Friday evening of All-Star weekend in Chicago.
"I feel like at times I was overlooked. But I feel at times I didn’t play up to my expectations," White said. "Not making the Rising Stars game was also fueling my fire, but I feel the ones who did make deserved it and deserved to be part of the game.
"I just wanted to get better. That game kind of helped me. It was a wake-up call for me. After that, I kind of took it how it was and just continued to get better and continue to do what I do. I really didn’t change anything out of my routine or anything. As the season went on, I felt like I got better as a player.”
Indeed, the All-Star break coincided with a late-season surge that undoubtedly played a massive role in him making second-team, and finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. Ultimately, the flashes of brilliance he displayed earned him a spot amongst the top 10 first-years to take the floor in 2019-20.
- Breaking a Bulls franchise record for 3-pointers in a quarter with seven in the fourth of a November 2019 victory over the New York Knicks… And with Roy Williams, who coached White at UNC, in the house.
- Becoming the first rookie in Bulls franchise history to post three consecutive 30-point outings games
- Becoming the first rookie reserve in NBA history to submit three consecutive 33-point outings (via Elias Sports Bureau)
- Averaging 33.7 minutes, 24.7 points, 4.3 assists and shooting 40.7% from 3-point range (8.6 attempts per game) in 10 post-All-Star break games
- Appearing in all 65 of the Bulls' games, one of two players (along with Tomáš Satoranský) to do so
- Supplanting Satoranský for the starting point guard spot in the Bulls' last game of the shortened season.
"I’ve said this from day one, he’s special. He can score the ball like no other,” Zach LaVine said of White after a 35-point performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 26 that capped three games in a row scoring at least 33. "He’s continuing to get better. He’s 20 years old, I think he’s starting to find his groove right now.
"He’s been putting a lot of hard work in. I go into the gym late or I shoot after practice and he’s right there. He’s gonna be special.”
White has never been one to let accolades define him — he made that clear just before being left off that Rising Stars roster.
Still, for a player celebrated as one of the best in North Carolina high school history, and a top-10 NBA Draft pick after a successful one-year stint at UNC, it’s another notch in the belt. And for Bulls fans, hopefully a sign of good things to come.