Jatarie White, family find comfort level with Staley, Gamecocks

dcloninger@thestate.comNovember 15, 2013 

Jatarie White signs with the Gamecocks at her school on Friday.

DAVID CLONINGER — dcloninger@thestate.com

— There was no mystery about it.

As she pledged she would last weekend, Providence Day School (N.C.) standout Jatarie White made it official on Friday. She signed her national letter-of-intent to play for Dawn Staley and South Carolina next season, giving the Gamecocks a commitment from the nation’s No. 7 overall player.

Ranked first nationally at her position (power forward), the 6-foot-4 White gives USC a stellar post option for the future and adds to what is becoming a tremendous class. While the Gamecocks missed on No. 12 national recruit Shakayla Thomas, who chose Florida State on Thursday, they have commitments from White, Kaydra Duckett (No. 32), Bianca Cuevas (44) and Doniyah Cliney (105). White, Duckett and Cliney have all sent in their paperwork, while Cuevas is expected to on Monday.

White, the reigning North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year and a gold-medal winner with the under-16 U.S. national team two years ago, will team with 6-4 center Alaina Coates on the blocks for the next three years.

Forward Aleighsa Welch will have one year to play beside the two towers, and with the way Staley is stockpiling talent, the Gamecocks stand to make the leap from a great program to an elite one.

White knew of the program’s burgeoning power, which is why she chose USC. She attended USC’s win over Louisiana Tech on Sunday having already made her decision the previous Friday. After the game, as her parents watched, she found Staley on the court.

She let her future coach know what she’d told her parents two days ago – she wanted to come to USC. Staley, tough, battle-hardened and seemingly void of emotion, completely broke character.

“She must have hugged me five times in a minute,” White said. “She thanked me but I thanked her several times – she’s the best coach for me and I’m really looking forward to what we can do down there.”

White chose the Gamecocks over Ohio State, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee. She wanted to make a decision before her senior season started. A three-time state champion, White wants to win a fourth title before coming to Columbia.

“She’s going to grow a lot, being under Dawn Staley and her staff,” said White’s father, Ervin White. “We just feel so comfortable with coach Staley.”

White wore a USC T-shirt, a USC stocking hat and signed her letter with a USC pen. After posing for pictures with mom, dad, coach Josh Springer and the other signees of the day, White spoke about her future.

“We’re going to keep getting better,” said White, who will also reunite with her former Providence Day teammate, Tiffany Mitchell, for the next two years. “Coach Staley is the perfect coach for me.”

With White in the fold, USC can turn its attention to finishing out the class in the spring. Staley can add six total players, and has four already; one spot, USC is hoping, will eventually be filled by top national recruit A’ja Wilson.

Wilson and White are close friends and White said she’ll talk to her pal about coming to USC. Wilson has three more official visits and won’t sign until the spring.

“Without a doubt,” White said. “We talk a lot, and I’d love to play with her in college. She already texted me this morning, asking me to Instagram a picture of me signing.”

Follow Cloninger on Twitter at @DCTheState

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