Make it Count: The Life and Times of Basketball Great JoJo White

Posted on Feb 16, 2013 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

The following excerpt from Make it Count: The Life and Times of Basketball Great JoJo White by Mark Bodanza is provided by the author. Bodanza will appear at a book signing alongside Jayhawk legend JoJo White at the KU Bookstore at Jayhawk Central Student Union, 12520 Quivira Road a the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park on Sunday, Feb. 24, from 12:30-2:00 p.m. The book can also be purchased online through the KU Bookstore.

makeitcount_cover | JoJo WhiteChapter 4 — Becoming a Jayhawk

JoJo’s enrollment at Kansas had everything to do with coaches and mentors, old and new. Coach Bailey’s contacts with Sam Miranda were as important to the decision as were the genuine values expressed by both Miranda and Ted Owens in their debut as coaches and recruiters at KU. All of these men were or became mentors to the young talent JoJo White as he entered the world of big-time college basketball.

If there were other factors in JoJo’s choice of Kansas, at least one of significance had nothing to do with basketball at all. The circumstance coincided with his initial trip to the campus in the fall of 1964. The Jayhawks were hosting the nationally ranked University of Oklahoma, a football powerhouse that Kansas had enjoyed precious little success against. The young recruit was treated to the experience of an exhilarating Jayhawks’ victory as Kansas defeated the Sooners, 15—14. As Coach Owens recalls the day, “The stage couldn’t have been better set–it was a perfect October day that included an exhilarating football upset.” Even more impressive to White was the play of a special KU running back, Gale Sayers, who ran back the opening kickoff ninety-three yards for the Jayhawks first score. Sayers made a big impression. JoJo said, “I was in awe of him, and watching him perform was a huge thrill for me, and the game was definitely a big influence in my decision to attend Kansas.”

White’s admiration of one of football’s greatest running backs is no less diminished today. His recollections of Sayers on campus are vivid and, in at least instance, a bit amusing. White got to meet Sayers at a fraternity party the night of the upset victory over Oklahoma. Eventually, JoJo pledged the fraternity and Sayers tried to recruit him to play football at KU. But White’s first allegiance was basketball, and he couldn’t be persuaded to try the college gridiron.

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