Royce White grew up.
His basketball skills were never in doubt. Since his Freshman year at De LaSalle he has been on recruiting lists a mile long and heralded as the next great basketball player to come out of Minnesota. All that attention, hype, and praise can go to a young man’s head, and it seemed to for White. After some class room/behavioral problems, a well publicized outburst or two on the court, and his eventual dismissal from De LaSalle, it looked like the almost guaranteed basketball star was in real danger of throwing it all away.
Then something clicked. Tough love is sometimes the most effective.
Getting kicked out of school may have been the best thing that happened to him. At De LaSalle he was under a microscope, and fairly or unfairly, the reputation which he in part created had started to hold him back. He wasn’t going to get a fresh start. At Hopkins, where he eventually transferred and won a state championship, he was now only under a magnifying glass. There were too many other stars (something like four of his former teammates will be playing Division 1 basketball this season) for all the attention to be on him, both on and off the court. With so much talent on the court, his load to bear on the court was also lighter, and when he got to relax, his game got even better.
His new goal was to lead his team in assists. He won a state title. Most importantly, the only news he made came on the court. High school basketball stars have to run a gauntlet of rabid fans, yes men, ridiculous expectations, and making one of the biggest decisions of their lives with seemingly the whole world watching, along with that whole part about just being a teenager which itself is enough to make life at least a little difficult. The maturation of Royce White has been impressive. If his basketball skills develop as much as he has as a person, he will be a special player.
How he became a Gopher
Royce White has been at the top of the Gophers wish list since before Tubby Smith came to town. He says he wanted to be Gopher all along, but the power coach building a power program probably pushed him over the edge. With good friend and AAU teammate Rodney Williams also interested in the Gophers, it became clear that this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
His statistics don’t jump of the screen. Only one player can have the ball at once, and with so much talent on his highschool team he didn’t get nearly as many touches as a lot of highly touted recruits. Having said that, he still managed to lead his team in scoring with 16 points per game.
Why to be excited
In terms of raw talent, he may be the best freshman in the conference. He has a Big Ten body, and has for years. Even though he is a thick 6’7” he can put the ball on the floor and make the outside shot. The sky is the limit.
Why to keep expectations in check
The Big Ten chews up and spits out plenty of prized recruits. If he doesn’t play defense and keep his head in the game, with Tubby Smith as coach, he won’t be in the game.
Most likely role
It all depends on the outcome of the Trevor Mbakwe situation. If Mbakwe plays, Royce White will be a back up most of the year. If Mbakwe is unable to play, White will get a few starts and plenty of minutes when the Gophers need some extra bulk. Paul Carter and Damian Johnson can do a lot of things, but putting on 50 pounds at a moment’s notice isn’t one of them.