LAS VEGAS — Coby White and Nassir Little were both highly-touted recruits to the University of North Carolina in 2018. It wasn’t until they got to Chapel Hill that they found out they were also distant relatives.
“We’re literally blood cousins,” Little told NBC Sports Chicago after the Portland Trail Blazers’ Tuesday afternoon loss to the Utah Jazz. “My dad and Coby’s brother were just having a conversation, and they were talking about their great grandparents. His brother said his great grandfather’s last name was White, and my dad was like, ‘That’s my great grandpa’s name. Is he married to so-and-so?’ And that’s kind of how we found out.”
White and Little were college teammates, but they had very different draft-night experiences. The Bulls took White with the No. 7 overall pick, viewing him as a long-term starter who may even play a significant role in his rookie season as Chicago looks to return to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Little, on the other hand, was a five-star recruit who endured a difficult freshman season at Carolina in which he struggled to get playing time. A projected lottery pick before the draft, Little slipped all the way to Portland at No. 25 overall, and the Blazers view him as a long-term developmental prospect who likely won’t play much right away.
Another of their Tar Heel teammates, Cam Johnson, was selected No. 11 overall by the Phoenix Suns, and White’s reaction to Johnson’s selection went viral. There was no such clip of White from when Adam Silver called Little’s name that night, but Little raved about White’s infections enthusiasm for his teammates’ successes.
“Every time I make a play, if you watch the clip, he’s the most excited guy on the team,” Little said. “He’s even more excited than I am. If I make a play, he’s jumping up and down. He’s going crazy every time I do something good.”
That unselfishness is something that surprised Little when he first got to know White after only seeing clips of his high-scoring high-school games.
“He’s more unselfish than I realized,” Little said. “I remember I used to see the numbers he put up in high school, and I asked him, ‘Do you pass the ball? How are you dropping 40 every game?’ So when I played with him, that’s something I figured out. He’s an unselfish player. He’s so excited when somebody else is successful. That’s important for a teammate.”
White’s Summer League performance thus far has been hit-and-miss, with a string of poor shooting performances overshadowing some impressive playmaking instincts. It may take a while to get there, but Little sees star potential in his close friend and former teammate.
“Coby can take it as far as he wants to. Potential All-Star, Hall of Famer, whatever he wants. He’s such a dynamic scorer. He can get so much better, and he’s already dangerous now. So it’s pretty scary what he’ll be able to do in a couple years.”