Russell White’s son Zachary may be a freshman, but he helps Notre Dame win

Zachary White, a 6-foot-5, 15-year-old freshman, may be the tallest member of the famous White family.

“We check the milkman, the mailman, and he’s the tallest,” joked his father, Russell White, a legendary running back for Encino Crespi High, Calif., and the Rams.

Russell said he measured almost 5-9 at the NFL combine in 1993. His wife, Aminah, is 5-9. Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, Russell’s uncle, was 5-10.

“It’s a blessing. We never knew we were going to get a tall kid,” Russell said. “It’s nice to be near my son and to be on his chest.”

Zachary Sherman Oaks is the starting point guard for Notre Dame, which plays in the Division I state championship game against the Livermore Granada at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday at 8 p.m.

It will be a homecoming for Aminah’s family. He grew up in the Bay Area. Russell also has friends in Northern California since he played at Cal and once served as the CIF commissioner of the Oakland Section.

Let no one question where White’s allegiance lies.

“Southern California,” Russell said. “That will never change.”

Russell is the assistant athletic director and eight-man football coach at Flintridge Prep. He has another son, Xavier, who plays football at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.

Zachary never gave football much of a chance.

“I loved basketball,” he said.

Crespi, former Cal and Rams quarterback Russell White, who led Crespi to the 1986 Division 1 football championship.

(Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times)

Russell remembers Zachary bringing a basketball to school in first grade, though he played a little flag football in middle school.

“He’s not a bad DB,” Russell said.

He’s not a bad basketball player, either. He has played a vital role for the top-ranked Knights, who have relied on the star trio of Dusty Stromer, Caleb Foster and Mercy Miller. White scored 10 points and made two 3-pointers in an 80-61 regional championship win over Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Tuesday.

White should play the wing position, but has had to play the center position as a rebounder and defender position with his height when the team is using a five-guard lineup. He made a key late shot in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Sierra Canyon at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.

“He’s a freshman, but what he’s doing is a very mature version of a role player,” coach Matt Sargeant said. “He is defending at a high level, he is rebounding and his shooting percentage has been high. It has been quite stable throughout the year.”

Averaging eight points and four rebounds, White is waiting for his chances. If opponents pay too much attention to the Stromer-Foster-Miller scoring machine, it can burn White.

It’s interesting how people react when they hear about White’s father.

“I think it’s funny. I didn’t see it,” he said.

As Zachary walked through the entrance to Crespi’s gymnasium and into the school’s Hall of Pride, he saw his father’s photo prominently displayed in the trophy case. He has also seen a video of his father’s football days.

“I watched his mix tape from high school and I saw a highlight of him jamming a guy in college,” Zachary said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy. That’s my dad. That’s hard to believe.’

He is enjoying being a fan.

“I think Zach has taken everything in stride and is enjoying the journey,” Russell said. “I’m proud of his academics. Basketball is a cult. He’s having fun.”

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