According to SI.com’s Sam Amick, the Nuggets have shown interest in drafting Iowa State’s Royce White with the 20th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Amick also mentions Baylor’s Quincy Miller and St. Johns’ Moe Harkless as possibilities with the team’s first-round selection. All three have one thing in common: Each is projected to play small forward in the NBA.
Much like the other two publicly known players — Terrence Ross and John Jenkins — whom the Nuggets have shown interest in by way of a pre-Draft workout, this most recent crop of small forwards is filled with names I’m pleased to hear. We’ll cover these players more in-depth in the near future but for now I wanted to briefly touch on the one guy Amick mentions directly in relation with the Nuggets, which is Royce White.
If you follow the Draft or college basketball in general you’re probably familiar with White, and subsequently the two main elements that comprise who he is both as a person and as a player.
White is one of, if not the, most versatile players in this year’s Draft. He stands a legitimate 6-foot-8, rebounds like power forward yet has the court vision and passing skills of a point guard. He can stretch the floor and drive the lane while also possessing the ability post up with efficiency and score over bigger opponents. In short, he’s hand-down one of the most talented players in the Draft and without a doubt, one of the most intriguing.
The problem? Like every “intriguing” prospect teeming with “potential” and “upside,” White has his his fair share of “concerns,” only his are a bit more unconventional.
Virtually all his life White has battled an anxiety disorder. In 2009-10 his troubles culminated when he plead guilty to theft and disorderly conduct charges after stealing merchandise from the Mall of America and shoving a security guard on his way out. Not long after, he was charged with trespassing and again accused of theft after a laptop disappeared from a college dorm the same night White and a group of his friends barged into numerous rooms without permission. White was not convicted of theft for the second time in only a matter of months, however his career at Minnesota was over before it even began.
Due to suspensions and NCAA transfer rules, White sat out two full seasons before finally being ruled eligible for the 2011-12 campaign where he played his first full year of collegiate basketball at Iowa State. He was originally scheduled to transfer to Kentucky, however his fear of flying prevented him from making the trip, and thus, signing with the Wildcats.
And here in lies the biggest problem with White: flying.
About the same time the “fasten seat-belts” sign goes off is about the same time his anxiety reaches its apogee. While he’s capable of flying, in no way is it conducive for his mental health. He frequently asks flight attendants if certain, routine sounds are normal and is stricken with a rapid heartbeat for essentially the entire flight. In addition to flying, White also gets nervous in the presence of large crowds and wakes up multiple times each night, often covered in sweat.
That said, it’s important to acknowledge the strides White had made over the last two years in regards to his anxiety and decision making. He’s now seeking more help than ever for his mental health struggles and has removed himself from any potentially troublesome run-ins with the law by establishing a strong support group of of trustworthy friends, teammates and professionals. He has publicly declared on numerous occasions that he is doing everything he can to stifle his anxiety issues and has made it clear that, although having made some glaring mistakes in the past, he’s not a bad person at heart.
So how should Nuggets fans feel about the team’s reported interest in such a risky investment? Good, for the most part. And here’s why:
Royce White is one of my favorite players in this Draft. He has been since Day 1. I’ve watched him on numerous occasions this past year and was thoroughly impressed each time. His game is so tantalizing and yet, so simple. He plays the right way and does whatever it takes to help his team pull out a win.
Furthermore, I’ve been impressed with his interviews and quotes in the media. He seems like a genuine, amiable guy who’s honest about his struggles and his attempt to overcome them. In terms of potential alone, he’s probably one of the top 5-10 prospects in the Draft. But his anxiety is a huge risk. And by huge, I mean huge.
It all boils down to flying. I hate saying it because I sympathize with him greatly, but the Nuggets (or any other team for that matter) simply cannot afford to use a first-round selection on a guy who can’t board the plane on any given night; however, if White is extremely confident in his ability to overcome his fear of flying and can convince the Nuggets that he’s ready to tackle this issue head on, then I’ll have no problem with the team taking him. But it’s imperative that he displays the commitment necessary for conquering such imposing mental obstacles. If White is in any way dubious about his abilities, the Nuggets must unfortunately cut ties with him and move on to culling their other top prospects.
Let’s just hope for the sake of White and the Nuggets, that his future is filled with a limited amount of turbulence.
(UPDATE: Mike Schmitz, a fellow TrueHoop contributor for Phoenix Suns blog, Vally of the Suns, has been composing video breakdowns of top prospects for DraftExpress.com. His most recent, which came out today (Monday), features non other than Royce White! Check it out here.)