MERIDIAN — It is said that in almost every part of the world, the dragonfly symbolizes change.
Few represent this better than Darian White.
From losing her mother to cancer at a young age to leaving Capital High for personal reasons to becoming the quintessential point guard of the 5A Southern Idaho Conference, the Mountain View girls basketball player has already undergone many significant changes in her short lifetime
But it’s made the senior into what she is today. The 5-foot-6 guard is a two-time All-SIC first-team selection, on a prohibitive favorite state championship team and is signed on to play Division I ball at Montana State University.
So it’s only fitting that she has a tattoo of a dragonfly on a rose on the right side of her stomach. It’s not only a tribute to her late mother, but also serves as a reminder of everything White has overcome.
“Life in general is how we overcome obstacles and she is showcasing that right now,” Mountain View coach Connie Skogrand said. “If anything, it’s showed other kids her age that they can overcome anything and how important perseverance is in your life. It’s not all about the destination, but the journey along the way. Darian certainly has an incredible one that’s for sure.”
A MOTHER’S LOVE NEVER CHANGES
Everyone knew White’s mother.
Dawn White attended every one of her daughter’s games and was the loudest person in the gym. But Darian didn’t mind.
Darian particularly loved it when her mother was in the stands after she drained a game-winning 3-pointer in the third grade. She watched as Dawn laughed while the coach accidentally dropped her in the middle of the ensuing celebration.
Dawn also made sure her daughter was taken care of off the court as well. During a family trip to a theme park when she was 5, Darian finished her ice cream cone and wanted more. So she kept bugging her older brother, Derrick White Jr., to give her his.
He was eventually forced to at the behest of Dawn.
“She was the biggest supporter of me,” Darian said. “She was just an extraordinary mom that would just do anything, even if it was totally unreasonable, just to make me happy. I could always count on her.”
So it made the news of her mother’s illness in the spring of 2012 that much harder.
It started innocently enough with a cold and headache. But it went on for weeks.
“It was weird because Dawn never got sick,” father Derrick White Sr. said. “And if Dawn was sick, you’d never know. So I knew it had to be something serious if she couldn’t live with it.”
Dawn finally went to the hospital and underwent blood work. No one expected what came next.
She was diagnosed with stage five leukemia.
Dawn went back and forth from Boise to Salt Lake City for chemotherapy treatment for a year. She actually went into remission. But only briefly.
She had to go right back into treatment. Only this time, it wasn’t working anymore. So doctors performed one last bone marrow surgery in a final attempt to save her life.
It didn’t take. Dawn White died on April 17, 2013 in her bed at home. She was 43.
Darian was in another room upstairs watching music videos with her siblings when her mother passed. She ran into her mother’s room and tried desperately to wake her up. After coming to the cruel realization that her mother wasn't waking up, Darian got under the covers and held her mother tightly until the paramedics arrived.
She was only 12 and no longer had a mother.
“I was in shock,” Darian said. “It’s something you can’t possibly put into words. I was in so much pain because I couldn’t comprehend that my mom was really gone. I was young. I didn't’ understand it. I remember in the days after just picking up my phone and calling and texting her before coming back to the realization that she was really gone.”
CHANGING FROM HEARTACHE TO THE HARDWOOD
There were days Darian didn’t get out of bed.
On several occasions her father caught her just blankly staring out a window.
“I think she took it the hardest because she was the youngest and had less time with our mom than anyone else,” said Derrick Jr., who is a senior guard at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston. “She didn’t have as many memories and that hurt her. “
But a consultation with a medium finally got her out of bed and back into the gym. The message from her mother was clear … “Keep playing basketball.”
So Darian and Derrick Jr. borrowed their father’s keys to a local church’s gym and worked on honing their craft — together.
“It was our outlet. Our way of grieving that we really lost ourselves in,” Darian said. “It’s definitely something not a lot of people have. He pushed and encouraged me by telling me things like ‘This is you’re way out from all of this. You know mom would want this. You can’t stop.’ So I don’t know where I would be at if it wasn't for him.”
It resulted in Darian taking the league by storm during the 2015-16 season when she earned All-SIC second-team honors as a freshman.
However, behind the scenes, Darian was in a lot of pain. And it had nothing to do with her mother.
A CHANGED GAME
Darian moved from Meridian to her grandma's house in Boise a year after the death of her mother.
“My kids just couldn’t live in the house that their mom passed in,” Derrick Sr. said. “So I had to buy another house. But then I got into mourning and depression. I probably didn’t shed one tear until about a year later and then it just hit me. I had a really hard time dealing with everything."
So Darian played for Capital instead of what would have been Mountain View during her freshman season. She started every game and helped the Eagles to 14 wins.
But Darian left the school for personal reasons following the conclusion of the season.
She moved back in with her father and enrolled at Mountain View for her sophomore year. Due to the transfer policies of the Idaho High School Activities Association, Darian had to file a hardship request in order to play that season. But her request was denied twice by the IHSAA.
So Darian had to sit out her entire sophomore season.
“That was my lowest moment. I wanted to quit,” Darian said. “It honestly felt like in that moment the only thing that was keeping me together through it all was now being taken away from me. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. I cried a lot about it.”
But Darian didn't quit.
She participated in every practice and proved to be a valuable asset. She assisted by mimicking the playing style of the opponent’s best guard and offered advice on the bench during games.
The Mavericks won the state consolation title that season.
“It was important for me to make sure she felt welcome. I know how mentally and emotionally tough it was on her to sit out. So I wanted her to know that she was still a big part of this team and she was,” Skogrand said. “All the other kids just embraced her and each one of them will tell you how important she was to that team’s success.”
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
It didn’t look like it had been 645 days since Darian last stepped onto a high school basketball court. She recorded a double-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and four assists in a 57-56 win over Timberline in last year’s season opener in her first game back.
Darian went on to lead the Mavericks to state for the fifth straight season and nearly put them back in the title game. She scored a team-high 22 points and had a chance for another game-winning shot — only on a much bigger stage than in that third grade gymnasium.
But her 3-pointer at the end of regulation hit the back of the rim. Darian got another chance for a game-winner in the overtime, but her layin fell well short in a 54-53 overtime loss to then unbeaten and nationally ranked Eagle.
Nevertheless, Darian came right back out the next day and scored 13 points in Mountain View's 52-49 win over Borah in the third-place game.
“I’ve been in those situations as a player and it’s tough, but Darian became better for it,” Skogrand said. “She’s a competitor and played like nothing happened even though I knew she was still upset about missing those shots. But she rebounded like she’s rebounded from everything else life has thrown her way”
CHANGING FOR THE BETTER
Dawn told the family right before she died the dragonfly was going to be her symbol.
It’s come to symbolize a lot more for Darian. She is no longer that scared 12 year old whose world came crashing down five and a half years ago.
The now 17 year old strikes fear into every player she goes up against. She is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in Mountain View's first two games of the season. She has the Mavericks (2-0 overall, 2-0 5A SIC) off to hot start with an average margin of victory of 30 points per game. Mountain View hosts Lewiston Friday.
Darian just signed her National Letter of Intent to play for Montana State University on Wednesday.
“She is a monster on defense,” Derrick Jr. said. “The best comparison I can say is she's like a Russell Westbrook, just a straight dog. She’s going to play defense and play her heart out every second she's on the court. So it’s easy to see why they wanted her. Everyone should want a player like that on their team, especially with what she's been through just to get here.”
But Darian hasn’t forgotten where she's come from either.
She has another tattoo on her left shoulder of an orange ribbon attached to the end of a cross with 4-17-13 right in the middle. It’s the day her world changed forever. But also the date that her remarkable transformation began.
And like the dragonfly, she is a symbol of self-realization in the face of overwhelming odds.
“I know not everyone believes in God, but He was on my side the entire time,” Darian said. “I just surrounded myself with a supportive family and friends the whole time. I kept my head on straight and just continued to work that much harder even when things seemed like they were never going to get better.
"It’s crazy to think you can get through so many traumatic things, but here I am — happy — living again. So it feels amazing to finally be at a place in my life where I know I’m going to be OK. I know my mom would be super proud of me.”