By Joseph Garcia
Every now and again in the world of sports there comes to light an inspiring story that makes people take a step back and count their blessings and Liberty Hill senior basketball player Josh White’s account is one of those.
Following the tragic loss of life and property during the Bastrop fires in September of last year, task forces and volunteers moved in to start clearing up some 1,691 residential structures that were destroyed in the fire along with timber that was scattered throughout the region.
One of those volunteers was White, who was working for Camp Wilderness Ridge at the time clearing out trees when all of a sudden he found himself going from an able-bodied person helping others, to the one in need of saving.
Around noon on April 6, 2012, Good Friday, White was working when his body buckled and he fell to the ground. With no idea what just transpired, White looked down and to his dismay saw that his right leg had just been nearly severed below the knee.
“When it first happened I thought to myself ‘my leg is off’, then I looked down and saw my leg was just hanging from my calf muscle,” recalled White. “It was horrible. I just didn’t know what to do and I kind of felt scared.”
A Bushwacker Tractor, used to clear land, had apparently come too close to the area White was standing and in one clean swipe nearly cut his right leg off. From there, White was airlifted via STAR Flight to the nearest Level I Trauma Facility – Brackenridge Hospital in Austin.
Remarkably enough, doctors and surgeons were able to repair White’s leg and save him from amputation. After his procedure, it took him about two weeks to put any pressure on his right leg and two months to walk normally.
Now, eight months later, White, 18, is surging his way to the top of the varsity Liberty Hill Runnin’ Panthers’ scoring chart, most recently leading his team with 18 points in a 54-38 victory over Fredericksburg.
Just to be back on the court is an inspiration to his team and coaches, but it has not always been easy for White who is one of 10 foster children.
“There are so many things that come to my mind when we talk about Josh,” said Liberty Hill Coach Barry Boren. “First, he is truly a success story. I have openly acknowledged that Josh has not had an easy life. Josh has grown so much as a person and player. He loves basketball. He also loves people and he has a good heart. He has established a life for himself and I believe he is going to be a really good productive member of our society. I also believe that basketball has had something to do with all of this process.”
White played basketball on the JV team most of last season and was getting himself ready to join varsity for their playoff run, and then he had the accident, according to Boren.
“At the moment he was hurt, all of us were very concerned,” Boren said. “Our thoughts were not centered on what we had lost as a player but more about the potential of losing someone who meant something to all of us. Gladly, Josh has recovered and is daily getting better.”
White, who considers himself extremely blessed, said his accident could have been worse due to all the surrounding ashes that could have infected the wound. The brush with death has pushed him to work harder and to get better as a person and player.
He is a sharp shooter, but is constantly trying to improve his defense. Due to the injury, White was unable to work out during the offseason to increase his speed and strength. So as the season progresses, White figures to become more of a contributor.
“Coach (Boren) tells me whenever I get in to spot up and if I’m open, shoot it,” White said. “He tells me I’m a shooter, but he really wants me to work on my defense. I’m a little bit slower than I was, so if I work on my defense I can get better and (play more minutes).”
Boren said White’s playing time will come in spurts. But when he does play, he will always present a threat to “hit a timely deep one” when the teams needs it.
The team certainly needed him in the Runnin’ Panthers’ run to the Coach Smith Tournament title in Salado a couple weeks ago. He averaged just over 11 points (11.25) for the tournament, which got the attention of his teammates.
“I think that everyone is genuinely glad to see it when Josh does something good,” Boren said. “Recently, Shane (LaCaille) gave Josh his All-Tournament medal from the Salado Tournament. His words were, ‘Here Josh, you take this, I think you really deserved to make it.’”
White said his favorite subject in school is science and he plans on attending college and possibly majoring in kinesiology or sports training. He has not decided where he will attend school upon graduation, but his focus right now is winning for Liberty Hill.
“My goal is basically to hit open shots for my team and win,” he said. “We want to play for a championship.”
And as for the steps he takes in everyday life to live and play sports, he has become thankful for every step walked and is more aware of his surroundings. He takes nothing for granted.
“That was like a near-death experience,” White acknowledged. “Now I am more cautious of my body. I thank God every day for allowing me to live.”