EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – There's no place like home. Just ask siblings Josh and Lauren White of Edwardsville, Illinois.
The pair of standout SIUE athletes have rediscovered their roots playing for the Cougars. Josh started for the men's basketball team and Lauren did the same for the women's squad. Both also have excelled in track.
In addition, they have merited classroom honors. The Whites were recognized as prime candidates for the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholarship Awards, sponsored by the Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Josh, a senior, was a runner-up for the award and Lauren, a redshirt junior, was considered a strong nominee in the 25th anniversary for the honors.
"Both were worthwhile candidates," said Dr. Venessa Brown, Associate Chancellor for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at SIUE, plus quite familiar with the Ashe Awards. "They've done great things, come back (home) and really stepped it up."
Josh started his collegiate career at South Dakota State and Lauren began at Northern Kentucky, yet both found their way back home more than two years ago and have flourished as Cougars. Josh, a 6-foot, 1-inch guard, recently graduated from SIUE with a degree in sociology/athletics. Lauren, a 5-8 redshirt senior guard, has one season of eligibility remaining. She's eyeing a career in business or the criminal justice system.
"When I came back here, everything fell into place for me," Josh said. "It was great to be in a structured environment and have a good support system with my family."
Lauren can attest to that.
"It has kind of been meant to be and worked out for all of us," she said. "I really wanted to be at home because I missed my family. We have a close-knit family and we really support each other a lot."
Dad Tony, mom Lisa and younger brother Justin, the next Cougar, make it a family affair. Justin, a 2017 graduate of Edwardsville High School and member of the Class 3A state track championship team, starts competing for the Cougars this fall. He has his sights set on more track success.
"I told him it's not like high school," Josh said of Justin. "College is what you make of it, so keep your goals in mind."
Josh found his niche as a contributing guard for Head Coach Jon Harris' squad. He worked his way into the starting lineup, averaging 5.5 points in 23 games.
"Josh was there for us from day one," Harris said. "He was always a team-first guy and a leader on and off the court. His attitude never wavered. Josh did his part to help the team to win."
Harris added, "He comes from a strong family, and they are really good people."
Once basketball ended, Josh took his turn in track, something he hadn't done competitively since his days at Edwardsville High. He found some success in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. Josh leaped 6-foot, 3.25 inches in the Ohio Valley Conference meet to place sixth.
"It had been at least five years since I competed in track, but I really enjoyed doing it this season," Josh said.
SIUE assistant track coach Joey Pacione, who works with the jumpers, said Josh White was a natural in his specialty events.
"He also ran the 100 meters, but the high jump was his best event. It was great to see him place in the conference meet," Pacione said. "I knew that he and Lauren were special athletes in high school and both seemed interested in going out for track after basketball ended."
For Lauren, it turned out to be a very special spring. White won the OVC heptathlon by scoring 5,001 points. She posted a time of 14.96 seconds in the 100-meters, 25.38 in the 200-meters, 2:33.23 in the 800-meters, went 17 feet, 5.5 inches in the long jump, 5-4.5 in the high jump, threw the shot 36-3 and the javelin 123-2.
"It kind of surprised me that I won it," said Lauren, a member of the 2012 Edwardsville High Class 3A championship squad. "I really hadn't done anything of that magnitude before, but it's something I'll never forget."
Neither will Pacione, who encouraged Lauren to take on the task of the grueling and grinding heptathlon.
"I knew she could finish in the top three and have a chance to win it," Pacione said. "Everything went according to the game plan and she was successful. It worked out well and was certainly rewarding when she won it."
He said White's goal next spring is to repeat as conference heptathlon champ and break the school record of 5,028 points set by Deserea Brown in 2007.
Before track and field comes around the bend one more time for Lauren, she will focus on extending the success of the SIUE women's basketball program. The Cougars finished third in the OVC last year and White played a big part in getting them into the league tournament.
She averaged 12.0 points and 2.3 assists for the 14-17 Cougars. Her brightest moment might have been sinking a three-point buzzer-beater to defeat Southeast Missouri 70-69 on Jan. 18 at the Vadalabene Center.
"The way that game against SEMO ended was definitely a great moment for me," Lauren said. "The basketball season started a little rough for us, but then we started playing better and everybody contributed. I think we have a great chance to win the conference next year."
SIUE women's Head Coach Paula Buscher leaned on Lauren whenever possible and the quick, lefty backliner came through for her.
"First of all, Lauren is a great person," Buscher said. "She's also a tremendous athlete, academically focused and has a lot of determination. She doesn't want to be average. She wants to compete and not sit back on her accomplishments. That's extremely impressive."
Buscher noted, "I think Lauren's best year is ahead of her."
If so, it'll be at home. That's SIUE for Lauren, Josh and soon Justin White.