'Envious and jealous' - Melbourne United's Jack White reflects on rollercoaster year

Throughout Melbourne United's NBL21 playoff run, Jack White was a model teammate, encouraging and supporting in any way he could as the team continued their march to a championship.

Internally, it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions for United's two-way specialist, who ruptured his Achilles just 11 games into the season.

"When they won the championship, it was hard for me to accept when people were telling me I was a big part of it. I appreciated it, but I could never embrace that thought," White told ESPN. "There's always that part of me that thinks about how I could have helped this group had I been healthy."

Set to make his return in United's matchup against the New Zealand Breakers at John Cain Arena on Sunday, White will complete an eight-month journey that has been as much about mental development as it has physical.

"The physical challenge is immense. Especially post-surgery when you can't do much and you don't feel like yourself. For me, it just felt like I was rotting away a little bit," he explains. "Mentally it was probably the biggest challenge, in terms of trying to see the light and positivity I could make out of the situation. Trying to flip a negative circumstance into an opportunity to improve and work on some things that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise."

Once he shakes the rust off, he believes that improvement could come in the form of increased positional versatility, with his 204cm frame ideal for modern day position-less basketball.

"We've done a really good job with our strength and conditioning staff and our physios on making me feel like I've become a better player physically and skill wise," he said. "That will be seen when I'm on the court and can actually show the things I've been working on.

"The big thing for me was working on my core strength, flexibility, mobility. I've spent a lot of time in the weight room working on my upper body. Being able to swing between the three and the four, I think that will be an advantage for me to defend more effectively against bigger guys while being able to maintain the athleticism which I think is a strength of mine in this league."

Looking back on the last few months, White appears calm and in control, reflecting on the period of time with great optimism, though he admits it wasn't always the case when his ability to compete was heavily restricted during a stringent rehabilitation regime.

"I had good and bad days. It depended on how my rehab was going at the time. If I saw the guys competing and I wasn't doing a lot, it made me envious and jealous. I just had to hit the reset button and run my own race and not rush anything, you just have to think about the bigger picture.

Head coach Dean Vickerman has been a key factor in keeping White engaged along the comeback trail, with the veteran head coach as eager as anyone to see the 24-year-old back on the floor.

"We have a great relationship. During that time when I was removed from the group and couldn't do a lot physically, I feel like he along with the coaching staff made me feel connected and not like I was just shafted to the side. Everyone reminded me of how important I am to the group. He's been great keeping me engaged, keeping me accountable so when the time comes, I'll be ready for it."

Expecting White to return to his double-digit scoring and multi-block games immediately would be asking a lot, with the return to on-court action set to be a slow process. While practicing patience may not be his strongest trait, he smiles when he describes what the moment may feel like, and more than anything he's confident he will get back to his best in due time.

"I want confidence in myself that I've really made the most of this process and can come back better than I was before I got hurt. It's taught me a lot through this process on taking your time and staying in the moment with things."

"I've missed the competition aspect of playing basketball, I really just love the games and being a part of that kind of atmosphere but it's all part of the process and journey."