Missionary-to-be thrust into NCAA tourney spotlight

Published: Wednesday, March 21 2012 8:30 a.m. MDT

North Carolina's P.J. Hairston, right, John Henson, center, and Stilman White, left, joke on the bench during the second half of a third-round NCAA tournament college basketball game against Creighton in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, March 18, 2012.

Associated Press

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Against all odds, freshman Stilman White is the starting point guard for 5-time national champion North Carolina as the Tar Heels make final preparations to compete in the Sweet Sixteen on Friday.

As Trent Toone detailed for the Deseret News back in January, White plans on serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the season ends. "Some have discouraged White from going through with his plan to serve a mission, but the freshman remains resolute. He credits the gospel for all the blessings in his life."

White started the season buried on North Carolina's depth chart and averaged only 4.3 minutes a game while backing up star Kendall Marshall, who is second in the country with 9.8 assists per game. But Marshall underwent wrist surgery Monday, and the player who started the season as Marshall's backup — Dexter Strickland — was already lost to a knee injury earlier this year. So the job now falls to White as the top-seeded Tar Heels prepare to face No. 13 seed Ohio University on Friday.

"There is still a chance that (Marshall) — who had surgery Monday to insert a screw into his fractured right wrist — could play against 13th-seeded Ohio," ESPN reported Tuesday. "But right now, (head coach Roy) Williams said, he has 'no idea' what factors will indicate whether Marshall can play, because he's in uncharted territory. … Without Marshall, the Tar Heels … will use freshman Stilman White and senior Justin Watts (who has played only two stints at point guard this season) as ball handlers."

UPDATE: The Associated Press reported Thursday that the left-handed Marshall is out of a cast and wearing a removable splint on his fractured right wrist. "(Father) Dennis Marshall said it was still too early to know if his son could play against Ohio on Friday in the NCAA Tournaments round of 16 in St. Louis. He said his son 'hasnt been ruled out, but not cleared to play either.'

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