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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Men's Basketball

Fabian White Jr., the ultimate winner


With the Cougars win over UCF on Thursday, forward Fabian White Jr. became the all-time wins leader in UH men's basketball program history with 110 career victories. | Victor Carroll/The Cougar

With the Cougars’ win over UCF on Thursday, forward Fabian White Jr. became the all-time wins leader in UH men’s basketball program history with 110 career victories. | Victor Carroll/The Cougar

Competitor. Dedicated. Leader. Legend. Tough. These are some of the words that Fabian White Jr.’s teammates say to sum up one of the all-time great Cougar men’s basketball players. But there was a noun that was the first word used to describe White by nearly each of his teammates — winner.

It’s no surprise that winner was the most common word associated with White because Houston rarely loses when No. 35 is on the court.

With 110 career wins in a Cougars uniform, White is the winningest player in the UH men’s basketball program’s history.

This comes as no surprise to UH head coach Kelvin Sampson.

“It’s not a coincidence that it’s Fabian that did it because you can describe him with that,” Sampson said. “He’s a winner.”

Making history

On Feb. 17, White experienced a moment he will never forget. As the clock hit triple zeros to seal UH’s win over UCF, White was surrounded and embraced with hugs from every one of his coaches and teammates.

While White felt blessed to pick up his 110th career win, seeing the joy in his coaches’ and teammates’ faces meant far more to him than going down in the history books as the Cougars’ winningest player.

“It’s great to finally get it out of the way,” White said after the game. “I think my teammates wanted it a little bit more than I did.”

This moment further confirmed to White that coming to UH was the best decision of his life.

“It just means I made the right choice in coming here,” White said.

No days off

What has made White so successful as a college basketball player? The answer is simple — his work ethic.

Missing a workout was never an option for White, even when he was dealing with a broken foot or torn ACL.

UH assistant coach Kellen Sampson, who has been White’s position coach for the past five years, said White is as dedicated to doing whatever it takes to win as anyone he’s ever seen.

“Even while he was on crutches or even while he was on a scooter, whatever he was dealing with, with his injuries, he never missed,” Kellen Sampson said. “He’s been in my position group five years and he never missed an individual workout. He would schedule his rehab stuff, training room time around when the four’s were going because he wanted to be there for Justin (Gorham) and J’Wan (Roberts). He wanted to be there for Kiyron (Powell). He wanted to be there for Ced (Alley). Whoever was in my group, he made sure he got his work in for the day so that he was present and vocal for our position group.”

Whether he’s on the court or off it, White is always looking for things he can do to put the team in the best position to win. And this goes all the way back to his high school playing days.

“One of the cool things about Fabian is that he’s used to being part of a good team,” Kellen Sampson said. “He’s used to sacrificing for the betterment of the team. He’s always had that kind of winner, it’s about we more than me attitude about him.”

Selfless mindset

To White, it’s never been about his individual numbers. The only numbers White cares about are the ones on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounds.

If the team wins, White wins.

“Fabian will be the first one to tell you it’s about the team,” Sampson said. “I doubt Fabian would want to talk about himself.”

White tends to shy away from talking about himself when asked about all the milestones he has accomplished throughout his career.

Instead, he gives all the credit to those that have helped him along the way.

I thank all my coaches, all the teammates I’ve had over the year,” White said after becoming the UH men’s basketball program’s all-time win leader.

Lasting legacy

From earning a starting spot as a sophomore and helping lead the Cougars to the Sweet 16 in 2019 to defying the odds and coming back from a torn ACL, that was supposed to sideline him for the entire 2020-21 season, to play a key part in UH’s Final Four run, White poured his blood, sweat and tears into the program for five years.

“Fabian has been a big part of this program for a long time and we’re proud of everything he’s accomplished,” Sampson said.

While White’s playing career at UH will come to an end in a couple of months, his handprint will forever be left on the program.

And don’t be surprised if White returns to UH sometime in the future. It just wouldn’t be as a player with the No. 35 on his back, as many Cougars fans are used to seeing, but rather as a coach.

“I mean it sincerely, I’m going to hire him one day,” Kellen Sampson said. “I hope he plays for the next 15 years and as soon as he’s done I’m going to hire him because that boy has a passion and a gift for being a leader.”

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