JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Sekoe White has been a die hard supporter of #24 for years. When he was invited to be a guest on the Rachael Ray show last June, she had a surprise for him.

Bryant had a special message for White, who is a coach at the Mississippi School for the Deaf.

“He was recognizing the work that I did with my students and recognizing me for that,” White said. “One thing that’s always gonna stick with me is that he said I was ‘a real hero to the students’ through my work and the opportunities that I was providing them and what I was teaching them about basketball.”

Coach White says that when Kobe addressed him directly, he didn’t make him feel like he was deaf — he just felt like he was one of the guys.

But Bryant isn’t the only person that Sekoe played and coaches in memory of. Basketball is in the White family’s blood. Sekoe’s dad aspired to play before he had to drop out of school to work. Sekoe felt compelled to continue what his father started.

He played in college at Galluedet University, a school for the deaf and continued to play in a semi-professional league which consisted both of death and hearing players, thinking of his dad all along his journey.

“When I started playing basketball, I was kind of able to pick up his dream where he left off and run with it,” White said. “Really eighth grade was when I made a breakthrough and became recognized and feeling like I was really a skilled player and I just stuck with that and always did it sort of in honor of my dad.”

In addition, two of his children play for a rec league as well.

White said that his dad set an example for him. “My dad was a very hard working person,” White explained. He said that #24 shared those values.

“He [Bryant] took the words “hard work” beyond just basketball. He took it to a whole new level,” White added.

White said he wants to offer his deepest condolences for the Bryant family.