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Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

KU center White couldn’t walk away

October 11, 2001

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From above the knee all the way down to the ankle, Nikki White's left leg looks like the map of a mine field. White has been sliced more than a cucumber, carved more often than a turkey and she's coming back for more.

White is a 6-foot-3 fifth-year senior she already owns a degree in psychology on Kansas University's women's basketball team who announced after the 2000-2001 season she would never put on a basketball uniform again.

Then she had the eighth that's right, eighth operation on her left leg last April and, following successful surgery to repair a torn ankle tendon, White changed her mind.

"A big part of it was my love for KU and for coach (Marian) Washington," White said. "After my last surgery, the doctor said I could try it again. Also, I hated to leave after a losing season. I couldn't give it up."

Now, with the Jayhawks about to begin preparations for the 2001-2002 season, White is confident her fifth year on Mount Oread will be the first without her left knee limiting her court time.

White first had surgery on the balky knee when she was a ninth grader at Harding Academy in Memphis, Tenn. Then she had some calcium deposits removed after her junior year in high school.

As a freshman at Kansas, White played in 31 of 32 games despite suffering from and later requiring surgery for compartment syndrome.

Surgeries Nos. 4 and 5 occurred the following year. They involved cartilage replacement and caused White to sit out the 1998-98 season.

After the year off, White came back, yet was limited to playing only about eight minutes a game because of chronic knee pain. Thus she had another operation. Well, actually two.

"No. 6 was a clean-up type of operation for the cartilage," White said. "And then No. 7 was to take out the hardware the screws and those things."

Following Operation No. 7, White found it much easier to go through airport screening devices, but then she suffered the partial ankle tendon tear that limited her to about 15 minutes a game last season.

Her court time may have been curtailed, but she put up decent numbers for a reserve 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds, not to mention 22 blocks. Only starter Jaclyn Johnson had more blocks.

Still, enough was enough, and White pulled the plug.

"Before I had my eighth operation I had decided I wouldn't play again," she said. "Then I realized I wasn't ready not to play basketball again. Thankfully, coach let me change my mind."

How much time White will be able to spend on the floor remains to be seen. History would seem to dictate not much. Then again, perhaps White's fifth year will be the charm.

"I realize I've had lots of injuries," she said. "But I've sacrificed a lot of time and I really want to do my best."

Curiously, White has never had an operation on her right leg.

"If I model," she quipped, smiling, "I'll show my right side."

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