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Lobos land Santa Fe basketball standout

Santa Fe High School junior J.B. White has announced his commitment to play for the New Mexico Lobos. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

UNM’s Homecoming week isn’t just about alumni returning to celebrate.

On Tuesday, one of the state’s highest-rated college basketball recruits in years announced he will stay home to play for Paul Weir and be a Lobo.

Fedonta “J.B.” White, a highly sought 6-foot-7 junior wing out of Santa Fe High who boasts scholarship offers from several high-major programs and ranks as high as the 35th best player in his recruiting class in the nation by 247Sports.com, announced on Tuesday that he will play for the Lobos, becoming the first Class of 2021 commitment for UNM.

“I really like what the program is about and I’ve become close with the coaches there,” White told the Journal on Tuesday afternoon. “I felt like I was ready for it (to make a decision). … And I feel sometimes people look down on our state and people in it. I want to be a part of proving everyone wrong.”

UNM was the first team to offer White a scholarship after a team camp in June 2018, the summer before his sophomore year at Santa Fe High, where he plays in a gymnasium named after former Demon and Lobos great Toby Roybal, the only Lobo basketball player to have his jersey retired by the university.

White, who said he was recruited primarily by head coach Paul Weir and assistant Brandon Mason, said staying close to family in northern New Mexico helped the decision.

“I just want to start off by saying thank you to all the people who have played a major role in my life and have helped me with my game,” White wrote in a social media post announcing his decision on Tuesday morning. “I also want to thank all of the coaches who have taken time to recruit me. After talking with my family, I have come to the decision that I want to attend college at the University of New Mexico!! #GoLobos.”

The level of recruiting for White was growing intense recently as the NCAA allowed college coaches to make in-person visits with high school juniors. For White, that meant several college coaches a week coming to Santa Fe High, sometimes several a day.

“It’s been very busy over the last month or so,” said Santa Fe High coach Zack Cole, who has been a key part of the recruiting process for White. “Really the last six weeks when the recruiting period opened up mid-September, it’s been wild. … We kind of knew he was getting stressed out about it, then I found out why. It’s because he already had his school in mind. I told him he should do what’s in his heart. Do what he wants.”

So White, who was seen by college recruiters throughout the spring and summer playing for the Utah-based Exum Elite club team, made his decision public Tuesday, cutting short the heavy recruitment that could have played out over the next two years.

A planned recruiting visit Thursday by Nevada assistant coach Craig Neal, the former Lobos head coach, is now off the table.

White has scholarship offers from such programs as Marquette, Utah and San Diego State while dozens of other programs have shown their interest.

Former UNM assistant coach Duane Broussard, now an assistant at TCU, was at Santa Fe High for a recruiting visit earlier this month, as were coaches from the Big 12’s Texas Tech and Oklahoma, the Big Ten’s Minnesota and the Pac 12’s Colorado.

UNM coaches aren’t allowed to discuss recruits until they have signed a National Letter of Intent, which players can’t do until November of their senior year of high school.

As for what Lobo fans can expect down the road in White, Cole says the sky is the limit on the court for the junior who is “almost 6-8 now,” but there’s more to him than the physical skills.

“He’s a gym rat who has helped create a gym-rat culture within our program,” Cole said. “His freshman season, he used to come in the gym alone at lunch to put up shots and work. Last year, there were a few others who came with him. This year, there are 25 guys coming in. He started that.”

Cole said White will play all five positions on the court at times this season for the Demons and can defend all five positions well.

And what does White think fans should expect?

“I feel like they’re going to see a dog,” White said. “I’m going to be up playing D on everybody. … Everybody can score (at the high school level). I don’t care about that. I will defend.”

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