Jahlil White started to dream about playing college basketball at a young age.
That dream started to become a reality during his sophomore season at Wildwood Catholic High School.
On Friday, the dream became more real than ever.
White, who will be a senior in the fall, verbally committed to attend Temple University in Philadelphia on an NCAA Division I basketball scholarship.
“Playing at the Division I level has always been my dream ever since I touched a basketball,” he said. “It finally came true. It’s a great feeling.”
In the 2018-19 season, the 6-foot-5 guard from Cape May Court House averaged 18.5 points and 6.1 rebounds to help lead the Crusaders to the Cape-Atlantic League championship and the South Jersey Non-Public B final. With his length, White projects in college ball as an excellent defender who can create shots for himself and teammates.
White, 17, said he chose Temple in part because it would be easy for his family to see him play. He has not yet decided on a major.
“Each time I visited Temple, it felt like home,” White said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I love the Liacouras Center (Temple’s arena). It’s a beautiful place. I love the city feel.”
Former Temple and 76ers standout Aaron McKie is Temple’s new head coach. The Owls qualified for the NCAA Tournament and finished 23-10 in Fran Dunphy’s final season leading the program. McKie was an assistant on Dunphy’s staff.
“We (formed) a good relationship,” White said of McKie. “He really stressed life after basketball, and he could make me the best person and basketball player I could be.”
Drexel, Fairfield and Monmouth were among the colleges that offered White scholarships. White played in few AAU tournaments this summer because he tore the meniscus in his left knee at the end of May and underwent surgery. He is on schedule to be fully recovered this month. The summer AAU season is when college coaches see prospects, so the injury limited White’s exposure.
“I think even if (White) hadn’t been injured, Temple was the spot for him,” Wildwood Catholic coach Dave DeWeese said. “It’s a really good fit. He took (the recruiting) process seriously. We talked many times, and at the end of the day I think it came down to him feeling so comfortable with the Temple coaching staff.”
White played few varsity minutes as a 6-2 Wildwood Catholic freshman. He grew to 6-5 as a sophomore and began to emerge as a college prospect. White averaged 7.9 points as a sophomore but showed his potential when he scored 17 in a 2018 Cape-Atlantic Tournament semifinal win over St. Augustine Prep.
AAU teams took notice and began to ask him to join their rosters. White said at that point he became serious about the recruiting process.
“From my perspective, I’ve seen Jahlil develop into an outstanding young man,” DeWeese said. “He has matured so much both from a basketball perspective and a personal perspective. He’s such a great kid.”
White is one of two Wildwood Catholic Division I prospects. Taj Thweatt, a 6-7 senior forward, has yet to announce his college choice. Thweatt tweeted his list of final eight schools last weekend: Miami, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Seton Hall, Penn State, Florida, Illinois and Temple.
Wildwood Catholic is expected to be a Tournament of Champions contender next season. No Cape-Atlantic League boys team has ever won the TOC. The 1993 Middle Township boys were the only CAL boys team to reach a TOC final.
White said making his college decision was a bit of a relief.
“I loved the recruiting process, but this takes a lot of stress off of me,” White said. “This takes everything off of me. I don’t have to worry about being recruited anymore. We just have to go and win the TOC.”