By Cole Deutschendorf
If you want to find a story about defying the odds, look no further than Hutchinson Community College men’s basketball assistant coach Anthony White.
White, who grew up in Kansas City, Kan., was homeless for a portion of his high school years. During his sophomore and junior years, he would go to his job at McDonald’s after school in an effort to provide money for his family.
Day in and day out, he had to navigate an extremely difficult home life, which made things like playing basketball and even completing schoolwork nearly impossible. Eventually, his grandparents were able to get custody rights of White, thanks in part to his mother.
During his senior year of high school, White played basketball again, and quickly became a key contributor to Sumner Academy. He averaged a double-double en route to Sumner Academy winning the Clas 5A Kansas state championship.
HutchCC basketball coach Tommy DeSalme recruited White to play at Cowley Community College, where White played a role in their success over the two years that he was there. Beyond that, White an DeSalme are grateful for his time at Cowley for a reason outside of basketball.
“99.9% of guys would have never made it out of his situation,” DeSalme said. “He pulled himself out of a situation that not many other people could have made it out of. Everybody can have a heartbreaking story, or a tough background to come from, but there’s no one with a background as tough as his.”
White grew, both as a player and as a person, during his two years spent at Cowley, a large part of which he attributes to DeSalme.
“I know (DeSalme) is a coach, but he was a father figure, a mentor to me,” White said. “Everything from practice, to how he went about his business on a daily basis helped me to grow up in that aspect. He was, and still is, a great person.”
DeSalme saw the talent, as well as the grit and determination that White had.
“I saw who he was as a young man,” DeSalme said. “The story itself makes you want to help him, give him an opportunity, and then you add the fact that he had talent on top of that.”
This season is White’s first with HutchCC, as he was brought along by DeSalme from Cowley after previous coach Steve Eck retired. White previously coached at Friends University, where he was also the assistant until the head coach retired.
That’s when DeSalme stepped in. The two already had history together, so it just made sense for DeSalme to ask White to be his assistant coach.
When DeSalme got the job at HutchCC, his first call was to White.
“I know everything that he is about, so it was a no-brainer to ask him to be on my staff,” DeSalme said.
The feeling was mutual for White.
“For me it was a no-brainer too, because I knew he was going to help me become a better man, better coach, he was going to have my back,” White said. “But above all else, he is a leader among leaders, and has qualities that I aspire to have and to be,” White said. “And he also understands that, for me, it’s bigger than basketball, because of my background.”
For DeSalme, having someone that he knows as a person was an important part of White being recruited to coach alongside him at Hutch.
“I can trust him to represent Hutchinson basketball wherever he’s at, I can trust him to be a leader of men,” DeSalme said.
White said he loves the spot that he is in right now, but he never takes it for granted. If he could have a conversation with his high school self, he would have a lot to say.
“Continue not to give up. Continue to be better. Continue to inspire,” White said. “I would say, always believe. There was a moment when I couldn’t even fathom being right here, having this opportunity at Hutch, even being alive in general.”
Thanks in part to people like DeSalme, White was able to maintain belief, reaching the point that he is at now because he never gave up hope, always holding out that he could make it through trials and tribulations that many other people could not even fathom.