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February 22, 2013
Tyler White is the sole senior starting on the New Franklin High School boys' varsity basketball squad. However, being the elder player is not foreign to White. Last season, the Bulldogs had no seniors, so White was given the leadership role as a junior.
"They look for me to obviously lead them and score too, because if I get going, I can get my teammates going," White said. "My coach relies on me, especially in relaying what he has to say onto the court."
Jim Schlotzhauer, New Franklin boys' varsity basketball head coach, had much of the same words to say about the 6'2 White, who plays both guard and forward on his team.
"Tyler is our primary scorer and team leader," Schlotzhauer said. "Being one of two seniors, Tyler has a lot of responsibility in running our team. We go as he goes. When he is playing well, so are we."
As of Feb. 19, the Bulldogs have a 13-12 record, meanwhile White is averaging 18.6 PPG along with 6.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals. White finished his season with 1,794 total points, eclipsing the New Franklin scoring record. Both White and Schlotzhauer describe him as a versatile offensive threat.
"[Tyler is] a slasher of some kind like James Harden," Schlotzhauer said. "Tyler is more than capable of shooting from the three point line, but he is certainly at his best going to the basket and finishing or going to the line. Tyler is a very crafty player with the ball, much like Harden."
White's shooting abilities were the difference on Jan. 17 in a home against Westran High School Hornets. The Bulldogs were down three points with less than thirty seconds to play, and White cemented himself his coach's memories by hitting a three-pointer in front of the Bulldogs' bench. That shot tied the game, and the Bulldogs won in overtime 61-57.
"It seemed like nothing could go right," Schlotzhauer said. "Westran gave an outstanding effort and a loss was looking more and more likely. It was a clutch play to help us get a win that we really needed at the time."
White was not always making big plays in front of New Franklin fans. During his freshman and sophomore campaigns, White played for Exeter High School. Exeter is a part of Barry County, which is located in southwest Missouri.
Prior to his junior year, White moved to the city of New Franklin, located in Howard County near Columbia. New Franklin holds a population of 1,089 people according to the 2010 census, and the high school is in Class 2 for athletics.
"Moving here as a junior I didn't know how they'd accept me," White said. "I just want to thank my teammates. I want to thank my fans. I want to thank the administration. They all supported my family coming here. We're like one of them now."
Both Tyler and his brother Tanner, a sophomore, are now playing together on the New Franklin squad. Tyler noticed the importance of basketball in New Franklin from the start.
"Basketball is a pretty big deal," White said. "I mean the gym is pretty much packed every night you have a game. That's usually the only thing happening in the town that night so most of the people are there."
According to Schlotzhauer, the Bulldogs were once a year in, year out winner. White said ever since the jump from class 1 to class 2, the Bulldogs have not experienced the same success. Schlotzhauer hopes the program has a bright future ahead.
"Hopefully Tyler and this year's team have brought an excitement and an expectation of competition with the great teams in our area back to New Franklin," Schlotzhauer said.
No matter their record, White describes having his name announced prior to a home game as a "pretty awesome feeling". He attributes much of this sensation to the crowd, led by a student pep-club. The pep club calls themselves the "Blue Crew", and it was started by the New Franklin cheerleading coach.
"It's a pretty loud atmosphere, especially close games," White said. "We play quite a few rivalry games, and it brings both communities there. Our fans are pretty into it. If the referee makes a bad call they'll let you know. They have full support behind us, that's for sure."
White is attending North Central Missouri College to play baseball. Though he is pursuing baseball in college, according to White, playing basketball at New Franklin will always hold a special spot in his memories.
"I'm just hoping I'm helping the team get back to where they need to be," White said. "I hope people look back and say, 'That kid helped us'."
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