The Wilmington, N.C. product left for his Mormon mission trip to Utah in December 2012 and returned last December older and wiser after spreading the word of his faith.
Reports surfaced in December upon his return that he may be able to rejoin the team for the spring semester, although White characterized that information as "made up" in his first media availability since returning to Chapel Hill.
His desire to return to the program, however, never wavered.
"I had a meeting with Coach [Roy] Williams a couple of month ago," White said. "I knew I wanted to come back and he said that he wanted me back as well… I really wanted to come back to Chapel Hill and play here at North Carolina. That was kind of my biggest concern; not really the details as much."
Williams visited Wrightsville Beach over spring break, according to White, and told him there would be a scholarship waiting for him upon his return.
While White's transition has been smooth thus far, his body is only starting to regain its playing form. He had ankle surgery in November after tearing tendons while playing soccer on his mission trip and was only given the full go-ahead to return to basketball activities upon his return to UNC two weeks ago.
"I still have a lot of rust to shake off," White said. "We've been playing the last two weeks and I definitely have good days and bad days. There's definitely a lot of rust."
White, who is up to 173 pounds after playing his freshman season in 2012 at 150 pounds, was limited in the spring due to his ankle rehab. After touching a basketball "maybe three times" during his mission trip, White was only able to run, lift weights (primarily upper body) and do some stationary shooting in the spring.
He was not allowed to do much cutting during his rehab process, and he admits that he's still not 100 percent in terms of speed and lateral movement.
White realized just how much work he had in front of him after matching up with Marcus Paige and Nate Britt in pick-up games the past two weeks.
"Physically, you forget how fast everyone is;'" White said. "The speed of the game – that's been the biggest surprise to me."
Even so, he's taken a lot of positives out of the pick-up games thus far.
"I know that I'm not going to be playing my best basketball right now, so I'm going to have days or certain moments where I'm not going to be happy with the way I'm playing, but I know it's a process," White said. "I've also had a lot of good moments where I've felt pretty good out there and I've felt comfortable. I know I can play out there."
White said he's spoken with various college basketball players who have taken mission trips and they indicated it could take as long as six months to get back into playing shape.
While his shooting touch has been streaky but otherwise sufficient, what he didn't realize was how much time away would affect his ball handling skills.
White, who is rooming with classmate Desmond Hubert, said that it's far too early to guess at where he may land in the point guard pecking order along with Paige, Britt, Luke Davis and Joel Berry.
His 13-assist, zero-turnover weekend in St. Louis two springs ago, however, proved that he's capable of playing at the ACC level.
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