Royce White burst onto the national scene last night with an eye-opening performance against the NCAA Tournament-favorite Kentucky Wildcats. White and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who matched up against each other for much of the game, were the two best players of the floor. White ended the night with 23 pts on 9-12 shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block. He did have 3 turnovers, but had the ball in his hands almost constantly during the 34 minutes he played.
On Iowa State’s first possession of the game, White showed what kind of night it was going to be, taking Davis to the left block, receiving the entry, and making a strong hop move into the middle of the lane and curling in a lefty flip beyond Davis’ outstretched arms. White outmuscled UK’s entire front line several times, using a variety of drop steps and nifty moves to create space and score the ball. Davis was no slouch either, putting up 15, 12, and 5 blocks, but Royce White was the story.
The question is, why hasn’t Royce White been the story– or, at least, a story–all season long?
Local, Not National, Recognition
The Big 12 recognized what it was dealing with. White had an outstanding season, averaging 13.1 points, 9.2. rebounds, and 5.1 assists. Following the 2011–12 Big 12 Conference men’s basketball season, he was named the unanimous Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and was recognized as a First Team All-Big 12 and a unanimous Big 12 All-Rookie Team selection.
NBA analysts missed the boat. Even among the NBA Draft analysts and self-proclaimed experts, White was rarely mentioned in top-level conversations, and is usually ranked as a second round pick in mock drafts–sometimes as a second rounder in *next year’s* draft.
During White’s so-called “coming out party” against Kentucky last night, NBA writers had to defend their oversight in real-time last night on Twitter.
For example, Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) of ESPN tweeted:
“Royce White is an ELITE talent & has been on NBA radar all year. But there are concerns. Here’s the breakdown.”
Reader @sportsworld2266 was not satisfied. He questioned Ford’s excuses for not having ranked White higher:
@sportsworld2266: His fear of flying leading to anxiety attacks effect his draft stock?
“Probably be 20 spots higher on Big Board w/o it”
Ford continued to feel the heat throughout the night. He went on the defensive; started to hedge. He posted this tweet at 10:08 pm:
“Interviews, Hoiberg endorsement, psych tests will be key for White. If NBA guys get comfortable with that, he’ll go much higher than 35.”
Seth Davis called bullshit:
@chadfordinsider If there are 35 players better than Royce White this will be the best draft ever.
Flustered, Ford replied:
Rank takes into account more than skill/great games. Red flags matter too RT
@SethDavisHoops: If there are 35 players better than White …
Ford finished his embarrassing night with this concession:
With that said
@SethDavisHoops I’m sure White’s stock has increased substantially with his performance this weekend.
- He has an anxiety disorder that may affect his decisionmaking.
- He was dismissed from De La Salle High School in Minneapolis for cheating on an exam.
- After winning Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball award and committing to the University of Minnesota, he allegedly stole merchandise at the Mall of America and then shoved a security guard who arrived to investigate the reported incident.
- He was allegedly involved in stealing a laptop on the University of Minnesota campus.
- His erratic behavior while still (technically) a member of the University of Minnesota program left serious question marks about White’s judgment. (Eds. Note: It appears that Royce’s best moments on YouTube have been taken down, but this puff piece is still fairly interesting.)
- Ball handling (including playing point forward very successfully)
- Thriving against tough competition
- Ability to use body to get position
- Free throw shooting
- Free throw shooting
Royce White isn’t a great shooter by any stretch of the imagination, but he does everything else well and has a nice touch around the basket. He gets everyone involved and can simply “do more stuff” than almost anyone else in the NCAA.
Where should he be drafted? It depends a lot on the team, and its needs. All season long, when I’ve watched Royce White I’ve seen a young Anthony Mason, playing point forward with the gritty toughness that made both White’s team and Mason’s teams so successful. Would I roll the dice on a guy like White if I needed a strong rebounder and lacked a ball dominant point guard? Hell yes. He’d fit your team perfectly. The Lakers seem like a team that could use a player with Royce’s unique skills, especially given their lack of pg production.
But I leave it to you. Where should Royce be drafted?