Mike White will always be a Rebel.
He spent 11 years of his life in Oxford, Mississippi, both as a four-year starting point guard on the men’s basketball team and then as an assistant coach for seven seasons.
Now, for the first time in his career, he will face his alma mater on the campus he once called home. His Florida Gators face Ole Miss on Saturday night at 8.
"I don’t know what to expect," White said on his return to Oxford. "It’s going to be odd."
White’s resume as a player for the Rebels was impressive: 117 games played, leading the team in assists in each of his four seasons and finishing his career with 370, eighth in program history. As a senior, White was part of the Ole Miss team that earned its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
As an assistant coach, five of White’s years on the job were under current Rebels’ head coach Andy Kennedy. With that experience, White knows a bit about what to expect from Ole Miss on Saturday night, including the team’s explosive offense led by senior guard Stefan Moody.
White admitted he’s more concerned about slowing the Rebels down than any emotional ties to his alma mater.
"I have a Stefan Moody headache right now," White said. "I’m a lot more nerve-wrecked with how to defend that team and any one of Andy’s teams. He’s a terrific offensive coach and motivator."
The Rebels are 12-4 and 2-2 in Southeastern Conference play. Moody is leading the conference with 24.4 points per game, the fourth-highest scoring average in the country. The Kissimmee native has scored at least 20 points in each of the team’s last 11 games and has three 30-point games this season, including a career-high 33 against LSU on Wednesday.
White knows Moody will be a handful to defend, calling him arguably the best scorer in college basketball.
"I know you’ve got to do a good job on Moody and you’ve got to do a good job on the other guys. I think they’re capable of winning either way," White said. "If we try to hold Moody to only getting eight or 10 shots, we could do that, but he’s probably more likely to get 15 free throws with his ability to draw fouls. It’s incredible."
A younger Mike White used to play all of his home games at the Tad Smith Coliseum, Ole Miss’ old court that closed in early January. The brand new Pavilion at Ole Miss is where Florida will face the Rebels on Saturday, where Ole Miss has only played two games thus far. White said he might try to shoot around at the old Coliseum.
"That’s where I lived when I wasn’t in class," White said of Tad Smith Coliseum. "Maybe I’ll just go shoot around at Tad and bring back some memories. It’ll be neat to be back on campus."
So while White and the Gators (10-6) prepare to face Ole Miss in Florida’s second consecutive road game, the former Rebel will try to enjoy his time back in Oxford despite the game result.
"I’m excited to get back and see some familiar faces and be in Oxford," White said. "My wife and I had 11 years there. We had four of our five children there. I’ll always be a big fan of Ole Miss, outside of one game of the year."
Follow Alex Maminakis on Twitter @alexmaminakis