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As Dionna White guides Milford Mill into playoffs, she lets play do talking

Milford Mill combo guard Dionna White is the Millers' all-time leading scorer.
Milford Mill combo guard Dionna White is the Millers' all-time leading scorer. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

A few minutes watching Milford Mill guard Dionna White drive, dish, rebound and hassle opponents on the basketball court will tell you far more about her game than you'll ever hear from her.

White, a 5-foot-6 combo guard, is a girl of few words with a game of many aspects. The Millers' all-time leading scorer has been dominating opponents since her freshman year. Since she arrived, the Millers are 94-6 and last winter, they won the Class 3A state championship, their first title since 2005.

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While White racks up numbers — 1,870 career points — she is even better at providing whatever her team needs in the moment. She averages 20.7 points, 4.2 assists, 4.7 steals and 5.1 rebounds per game and leads the team in all four categories as the No. 4 Millers (20-1) head into Wednesday's sectional semifinal versus Franklin.

"Her game is wiser than her years. It's always been that way," Millers coach DeToiya McAliley said. "Her composure on the court is something that's very hard to find in high school athletes — and her instinct for everything, for who needs to have the ball where and for what needs to happen at any given time. She does everything that's needed for the good of the team."

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Catonsville coach Mike Mohler remembers the buzzer-beating 30-footer White nailed three years ago to send their league game into overtime. It barely hit the net as it dropped through the hoop and the Millers went on to win that game and earn a berth in the Baltimore County championship.

White led the Millers to four straight county championships — the past two over Mohler's Comets.

"All our games have been typical Dionna games," Mohler said. "She's incredible and she never gets rattled. She knows when it's her time to take over and when it's her time to give it up. She's totally a game-changer on defense. One of our rules is 'if you're handling the ball and Dionna's on you, give it up right away, because she's going to disrupt you if not steal it' — and she does it without fouling. Incredible quickness and coordination. I've loved that kid since her freshman year."

Almost every time the Millers get in trouble, White will bail them out. In last year's state final, she showed her steely composure in the final minute of the 40-37 win over Damascus.

The Hornets rallied from six points down to pull within 36-35, but White answered with a short jumper. With 10 seconds left, the Hornets again cut the lead to one. For a chance to get the ball back, they had to foul White, who made both free throws to seal the win. She finished with 17 points and six steals and played a major role in the Millers harassing the Hornets into 20 turnovers.

In last week's 55-48 county championship victory over Catonsville, she hit a running 28-footer at the first-quarter buzzer, scored all nine of her teams' points in the second quarter and grabbed a critical rebound with less than a minute to play.

"She's one of the all-time greats in Baltimore County and certainly in the metro area," Mohler said. "She's not flashy. She just gets it done. I think her greatest trait is her consistency. She played the game hard, she played the game fair and she has a killer instinct. And she really seems to be a nice kid. You never hear an unkind word about her."

White's success on the basketball court started early. She and her twin brother, Deontaye — who plays on the Millers' football team — followed their older brother, Eric, onto the court when they were 4 years old. Their mother coached their first coed team and they won the championship.

As her game grew, she didn't have to look far for a role model. Her cousin, Chandrea Jones, was a four-time All-Metro player at the Institute of Notre Dame. Jones was the last freshman named All-Metro first-team until White made it.

"I looked up to her with how she played and with her going to college (Syracuse). I wanted to do that. I think I developed by watching her," White said of Jones, who is 10 years older and now playing overseas.

It's easy to see Jones in White's game. Both could score in many ways, both had that steady composure and both had uncanny instincts.

Those instincts made White, a three-time All-Metro first-team selection, especially appealing to first-year Georgetown coach Natasha Adair as she tries to rebuild the Hoyas, who are 4-26 heading into this weekend's Big East Conference Tournament.

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Adair has watched White for four years and has been especially impressed by her defense and her willingness to play whatever role is necessary for the team. She said White frequently texts her to ask what else she can do to be ready for the Hoyas.

"She is that player who's, 'I just want to do what my team wants me to do and if I have to defend, I have to defend and if I have to score, I have to score, whatever,'" Adair said. "To have that type of mindset with that skill set in this day and age is rare. I think she's going to be a very integral part of what we do because of that. I don't think she would be opposed to any role right now. I'm excited. I wish she could play right now."

White didn't talk to a lot of people about her decision. She found the recruiting process "tiresome" but said, "It felt good knowing I could play at the next level." Still, she didn't enjoy having to talk with coaches. In June she committed to Georgetown over LaSalle after visiting the Hoyas' campus.

"First, it's a good school academically," said White, who has a 3.8 GPA and plans to major in business and finance. "The campus is nice and Coach A knows my game. She's watched me play for a while. And the coaches, they're funny. They tell jokes. They have fun."

Despite her reserve with people she doesn't know well, White is a typical teenager, letting loose with her friends, especially a close circle of former Amateur Athletic Union teammates — City graduate Dyzhanay "DiDi" Burton, now a freshman point guard at Georgetown, and Poly graduates Teira Pendelton and Jasmine Smith.

Burton recalls several occasions when one of White's "goofy" antics kept the trio laughing for hours. Both girls reminisce about the four of them dancing at least part of the night away with the bride and groom at a wedding reception at their AAU team hotel a couple years ago.

Still, White surprised her friends when she told them, at a cookout celebrating Burton's graduation from City last June, she had committed to Georgetown.

"I was like, 'You couldn't even give anybody a heads up,' but you know how she is," Burton said. "I wasn't really surprised though. This is a great place to play and she'll fit right in. I have a lot of memories of her when we played together. We have this visual understanding on the court. We don't have to say anything. It's just eye contact. I'm looking forward to playing with her again."

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