Local Basketball Standout, Decensae White, Charged in Murder of Rapper in Georgia

Former San Francisco State player was extradited from San Mateo County

By Kyle Bonagura
|  Friday, May 24, 2013  |  Updated 8:01 PM PDT
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A local basketball standout has been arrested and transported to Georgia where he faces a murder charge for his involvement in the death of a rapper known as Lil Phat. Marianne Favro reports.

A local basketball standout has been arrested and transported to Georgia where he faces a murder charge for his involvement in the death of a rapper known as Lil Phat. Marianne Favro reports.

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A local basketball standout has been arrested and transported to Fulton County, Ga., where he faces a several charges, including murder, for his involvement in the death of a rapper known as Lil Phat.

Decensae White, 25, who just finished his senior season at San Francisco State University, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals on April 24 in Pacifica and held at San Mateo County jail until his extradition hearing on May 13. He was booked on May 17 and is set to appear in court in Fulton County on May 31, according to a Fulton County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson.

White is among a group of five who were all indicted on charges of murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, criminal participation in gang activity and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to Fulton County District Attorney public affairs director Yvette Jones. 

The warrant was issued by the city of Sandy Springs, located just north of Atlanta.

Lil Phat, whose real name is Melvin Vernell III, was found shot dead outside of a hospital on June 7, 2012, where he was visiting his girlfriend who was preparing to give birth, according to Sandy Springs police spokesman Capt. Steve Rose.

"I termed it an assassination," Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Authorities in Fulton County believe the five suspects were "business" associates and conspired to hire hit men to kill Vernell. The alleged motive for the murder was drugs and other "business" dealings, according to a Fulton County DA press release. 

Also arrested were Maurice Conner, DeAndre Washington, Gary Bradford and Mani Chulayev, a Russian mobster. Chulpayev was arrested on April 12 in Broward County, Fla.

“We are in total shock right now,” White’s father, David White, said. “He is the most non-violent person I’ve ever known in my life. This is beyond anyone's comprehension.”

White’s basketball career has been well publicized since his high school career at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, where he graduated from in 2006. The Pacifica native was a member of the San Francisco Chronicle’s All-Metro team before taking a scholarship to play at Texas Tech for famed coach Bobby Knight.

White was roommates with 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree at Texas Tech, but left two games into his sophomore year. He transferred to Santa Clara in January 2008, but left the program two months later.

In 2009, White moved from the Bay Area to Georgia, with the hopes of starting a rap career, according to a source familiar with White’s situation.

After stepping away from basketball, White enrolled at SFSU in the fall and walked on to the basketball team. He started every game for the Gators in the 2012-13 season and averaged a team-high 12.5 points per game.

On Feb. 22, White hit a shot from beyond halfcourt to give SFSU a win against highly-ranked Cal Poly-Pomona. Video of the shot went viral and appeared as the No. 6 play of the day on ESPN’s Sports Center [see below].

In an interview on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Chronicle Live on Feb. 26 [see below], White addressed his decision to return to basketball after his time away.

“I dealt with a lot of frustration just coming from … things weren’t going the I wanted them to and just wanted to get away from it for awhile, but I’m glad I got back into it,” White said. “I have a 17-month-old son now and am arranged to get married, things like that. I'm trying to get my life back together. Everything is going good.”

White was set to be recognized by the Pacifica Sports Club at its annual breakfast of Champions award program on May 18, but "did not attend as he was out of state," according to an event organizer.

White is currently enrolled in 19 units at SFSU as a communication studies major. As of Friday morning, the university was not aware of the charges against White.

He has no criminal record in San Mateo County.

Chronicle Live Interview

White on ESPN

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NBC Bay Area's Marianne Favro contributed to this story.

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