Cheaney, White lead camp at Assembly Hall

Calbert Cheaney and D.J. White’s careers at Indiana were separated by more than a decade in time and even greater chasm in terms of the state of the basketball program in their respective eras.

Cheaney starred during the last of coach Bob Knight’s golden periods, becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer in the process. The Hoosiers were 105-27 in his four years, claiming at least a share of two Big Ten titles — one being the last of Knight’s career — and making a Final Four appearance.

White’s time in Bloomington, meanwhile, was one of the most tumultuous periods in the program’s history. He played in three NCAA Tournaments, but he also played for three coaches. That included Dan Dakich, who took over as interim coach in 2008 for Kelvin Sampson when the latter was forced to resign for NCAA recruiting violations. White’s eligibility ended after that season and he went to the NBA, so he didn’t see the program in total ruin, but he was around when the walls started to crumble.

Still, as disparate as their experiences at Indiana were, they both spoke with similar fondness of it Saturday morning when they met to lead one of IU coach Tom Crean’s basketball camps at Assembly Hall, which drew approximately 240 kids aged 5-17.

“Just playing at Assembly Hall and the fans,” White said. “That was the best thing about my years here is the fans, every night, 17,000 strong. That’s what I remember the most.”

Said Cheaney: “D.J. talked about it earlier, it’s 17,000 fans cheering the team on whether you’re playing well or whether you’re not playing well, they always come out and support the program. That’s what IU basketball’s all about.”

For that reason it’s important for both to find ways to give back, and the camp was a way to combine on an initiative. Cheaney, of course, is already working in the program as Indiana’s director of basketball operations. White, who lives in Indianapolis in the NBA’s offseason, had been holding a camp through a company called Pro Camps in Bloomington the last two years, usually using the courts at SportsPlex as his home base.

By combining together and joining Crean, they gained the use of the Assembly Hall and Cook Hall courts as well as Indiana’s current players as camp counselors, all of which

made for a much bigger draw.

“We just thought it was best to combine it,” White said. “We all — and Calbert one of the greatest here at Indiana — for all of us to combine, we just thought it would be better for the camp.”

White and Cheaney both faced crossroads in their careers this offseason, and White is still facing his.

In one way, the 2011-12 season was the most stable of White’s pro career. After 2 1/2 years with the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise in which he was constantly being shuttled back and forth between the Thunder and it’s NBA Development League team in Tulsa, he was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats during the 2010-11 season where he spent all of his time with the big club and saw more minutes than he ever had in his career. Last season, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward averaged a career high 18.9 minutes per game, scoring 6.3 points and grabbing 3.4 rebounds per contest.
But he also did it on one of the worst NBA teams in modern history. In the lockout-shortened season, the Bobcats finished a gruesome 7-59, losing 23 straight games to end the season.
“All I could control was my attitude and my effort,” White said. “I got to play a lot, more than I have in my previous years. We didn’t have the best year…” he stopped and chuckled at the degree of understatement. “I don’t wish that upon nobody, but it’s a learning experience. What can you do. Just continue to do the best you can every day.”

One other option was changing teams. White’s contract was up and he remains a free agent. He said he will be meeting with teams soon but said he couldn’t specify.

“Hopefully I’ll know my future in a couple of weeks,” White said. “… I’ve got a couple of options. I just basically want to be in a position to succeed.”

Cheaney had an option to move up earlier this spring but decided to maintain his own position. When former assistant coach Bennie Seltzer left to take the head coaching job at Samford, Crean gave Cheaney the option to take a promotion to being a full-time assistant. However, after spending 13 years playing in the NBA from 1993-2006 and then two years on the staff of the Golden State Warriors, Cheaney opted to keep the director of operations job. That restricts him from recruiting, which means more time to spend with his wife Yvette and his two daughters. The Hoosiers eventually hired former Towson assistant Kenny Johnson as the new assistant.

“It just wasn’t the right time right now from a family perspective,” Cheaney said. “I’m very content with where I am right now as the director of operations. It’s a great job. I’ve learned a lot from Coach Crean and his staff and the administration, so I’m learning a lot from both sides. It’s just one of those things right now where it wasn’t the right time.”

Both Cheaney and White enjoying the program’s renaissance under Crean. White kept close tabs on the Hoosiers even as the roster was decimated and they suffered through three straight losing seasons. He and former Hoosier Eric Gordon worked out with Indiana last season during the lockout, so he was thrilled to see the Hoosier in the Sweet 16.

“I’m happy,” he said. “When I left, a lot of different things happened. But you know, coach Crean and his staff did a good job recruiting, and the guys as well. Christian and those guys were put in a tough situation, but they stuck it out and look at them now, they made it to the Sweet 16 and (presumed) preseason No. 1, so hopefully they can build on that success from last year.”

AUDIO: Calbert Cheaney and D.J. White

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