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Bulls’ Coby White Talks Offseason and Goals to Become an NBA All-Star

Nothing should come easy, and Coby White knows this as well as anyone. The 24-year-old Chicago Bulls guard is coming off the best season of his career to date. He showed flashes early on despite struggling to hold a solid role in the rotation, but this year, it all came together, and the North Carolina native finished second in the race for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

We caught up with Coby to talk about his plans for the offseason, being the best guy in Chicago, staying in the moment and more.

SLAM: How has the offseason been so far?

Coby White: Be quiet bro. Actually, I didn’t do much because of the long season. I’ve been taking it easy—I’m definitely in the weight room, trying to lay the foundation before I get back on the court. I usually give myself two weeks [of rest], but this year I played a lot more minutes, so this offseason is a little different for me. I take three to four weeks off, and then I’m really back at it.

SLAM: You’re coming off the best season of your career so far—we’ll touch on that in a minute—but I want to take you back to last year. Did you do anything differently last season in preparation for this season, or was it just a case of everything coming together?

CW: I think last year, as far as the court and the weight room, the physical aspect of it was very similar. What really changed me was that I took a different approach to the mental side; I took a different approach. Coach [Billy] Donovan put it into my mind to change myself mentally. He felt that was the next step for me. So, I started trying to grow mentally, doing little things like reading more, meditating, setting a schedule, praying several times a day and things like that. Then coach Donovan took me and a few guys to Colorado last year. We met with a mental coach, and he gave us some small exercises. I just wanted to carry that into my summer training and into the season.

SLAM: You only started two games last year, but at the beginning of this season, it was clear that you were going to have a big role. How was the transition for you to find your role as the team’s lead guard?

CW: It was challenging at first, but it was fun. Obviously, things changed during our season. Going into the year, I knew I was going to have a big role, but by the end of the year, it was bigger than I thought it would be. I just accepted the challenge. My teammates and coaching staff were supportive and patient. It was a learning experience. There was definitely a learning curve at first. But once I got that and got used to using my voice and being a leader, that’s when things just clicked and I went from there.

SLAM: Unlike many other lottery options, you are not given the keys to your franchise right away. Can you talk about what staying on course looks like for you and how you stay prepared for the inevitable when you get the chance?

CW: It was hard at first, especially as a rookie. You can look around the League and see all your teammates listed in the same position as you, and you see a lot of guys playing 36 minutes, starting, leading their teams to win and play. [in] those difficult times. For me, I was coming off the bench, playing, like, 18 minutes a game. I think the mental part was the hardest for me. I have been working hard and always working on my game. I wanted to show them that no matter what position you put me in, I will continue to be myself and work the way I always work in the gym. I had to understand the mental part—it was a different kind of difficulty that I had never faced in my life. But when I accepted the fact that I have to work for this and persevere, I got closer to God, especially his plan for me. I felt in my spirit for a very long time that my time would come; I had to be patient. This year, it finally arrived and I just thank God for allowing me to be in this position.

SLAM: There was a moment at the beginning of the season that you can’t pinpoint where it was, Will this year be different?

CW: I think training camp just felt different. I just knew I couldn’t fail. I had the support of my teammates and my coaching staff, and I spoke freely with the leader there. Then when the season started, I wasn’t very good—for the first month I was good. It was not my first month, but I remember talking to my brother, telling him that I have this pregnancy and I feel that everything will come together. Then in December things just clicked, and confidence kept rising. Then, you know, you get comfortable [in your role]and you get an idea like: I belong here. This is who I am. Then I continued to get better as the season went on.

SLAM: Finished runner-up for Most Improved Player award; even though you didn’t win, is there any satisfaction in knowing that other people and your peers see you as a young star in the Association?

CW: You couldn’t go wrong [with any of the finalists for the MIP Award], but to me it’s like—I’m lost. There is no real satisfaction. Like, you win or you lose and that’s just the way I see it. For me, it’s more motivation, more fuel—but it’s not hostility. Any one of us could have won it. As far as being in conversations and people starting to notice who I am—I try not to pay attention to it because I try not to be too high or too low. I enjoy the moments as they come. And then, after they’re gone, it’s after me. I had a good season, but I have to continue to build the foundation and continue to grow in all aspects of my game.

SLAM: Y’all narrowly missed out on making the playoffs after losing in the playoffs; What do you think is the next step to becoming the lead point guard for a playoff contending team?

CW: I think about continuing to build as a leader and use my voice. One of the hardest parts is the emotional aspect. There’s a lot of emotion that goes into one game, let alone an entire season. I’m an emotional guy; I wear my heart on my sleeve. When it comes to basketball, I care a lot, and it gets me down, and sometimes it affects me to the point where I’m not the leader I should be. I have to be that rock in the group—the foundation of the group. I have to be the one who pays everyone back. I study in that place.

And I think that this summer, I have to do a lot of preparation. I can’t let fatigue play a role [in] if I play well or not. I didn’t know I was going to come in and play well for about 40 minutes in the game. The role I had coming into the season, I was like the fourth option. At the end of the season, I was the first or second choice. Towards the end of the season, when the teams started getting used to me and making things difficult for me, I feel like fatigue played a big role in some of the games I didn’t play in. I feel like taking action on my condition and my body will help me take the next step to where I want to be.

I will also work on being creative in football. I’m learning how to get to my spots, I’m learning how to play physically, because now, every night, I’m getting the best first and second quarterback on the team.

SLAM: Looking ahead to next season, what are your goals?

CW: I think winning really takes care of everything. But for me, as an individual, I think the next step is to be an All-Star. This past summer, I had one goal, and that was to prove to everyone that I was worthy of being a point guard in the NBA and that I could be a starting point guard in the NBA. One thing I want to do next year is just prove that I can continue this level of play and make the jump and be that All-Star. I feel like if I keep working and I’m on the path I’m on, I think winning will make it easier to choose. For me, winning always comes before anything else.

Photos via Getty Images.

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