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

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

“We checked the milkman, the mailman, and he’s the tallest,” quipped his father, Russell White, the legendary running back for Encino Crespi High, California and the Rams.

Russell said he was nearly 5-9 in the nfl combine in 1993. His wife, Aminah, is 5-9 years old. Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, Russell’s uncle, went 5-10.

“It is a blessing. We never knew we would have a tall kid,” Russell said. “It’s nice to be next to your son and you are on his chest.”

Zachary is a starting guard for Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, who plays at 8 pm Friday in the Division I state championship game at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento against Livermore Grenada.

It will be a homecoming for Aminah’s side of the family. She grew up in the Bay Area. Russell also has friends from Northern California, having played for Cal and once serving as the CIF Commissioner for the Oakland Chapter.

Let no one doubt where White’s loyalties lie.

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

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

Zachary never gave football much of a chance.

“I just liked basketball,” he said.

Former Crespi, Cal and Rams running back Russell White, who led Crespi to the 1986 Division 1 football championship.

(Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times)

Russell remembers that Zachary took a basketball to school in first grade, although he played a little flag football in high 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 Knights, who have relied on the all-star trio of Dusty Stromer, Caleb Foster and Mercy Miller. White scored 10 points and made two 3-pointers in Tuesday’s 80-61 regional championship win over Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.

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

“He’s a freshman, but what he’s been doing is a very mature version of a role player,” coach Matt Sargeant said. “He is defending at a high level, rebounding and his shot has been a high percentage. He’s been pretty steady all year.”

Averaging eight points and four rebounds, White looks forward to his opportunities. If the opponents pay too much attention to the Stromer-Foster-Miller scoring machine, White can burn them.

What’s intriguing is how people react when they find out about White’s father.

“I find it fun. I didn’t get to see it,” she said.

Zachary had an idea as he walked through the entrance to Crespi’s gym and looked into the school’s Hall of Pride, seeing his father’s picture prominently displayed in the trophy case. He has also watched videos of his father’s soccer days.

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

Dad is enjoying being a fan.

“I think Zach has taken it all in stride and is enjoying the ride,” Russell said. “I am very proud of his studies. Basketball is the icing on the cake. He’s having a good time.