Houston Rockets' Rookie Royce White Has the Potential to Be Great

James ChangCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2012

Roce White playing for Iowa State
Roce White playing for Iowa StateJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

“I was a gunslinger, a maverick, in high school,” Royce White said during an interview with the New York Times, “it took some things to happen to me to refine who I was."

White's words attempt to explain how a player so gifted could have so many doubters.  During his one playing year with Iowa State, he managed to put up 13.4 points, and 9.3 rebounds a game.  He led the Cyclones in points, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks; the only Division I player in the past year to do so. 

His points and rebounds per 40 minutes at 17 and 12 respectively are comparable with Anthony Davis, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds per 40 minutes.  Davis may have 4.7 blocks per game, but White excels at passing the ball, averaging five assists per game.

At 6'8'', White plays the power forward position, and weighs 260 pounds.  His weight doesn't appear to be a concern for the Rockets, as he is very athletic and they are confident the rookie will standout in their training program.

As reported by NBA.com, league executives were very impressed with White's performance at the Chicago draft combine.  His time at Iowa State appeared to have molded him well; he's influence by John Lennon's philosophy and music, is an avid reader and also plays the piano.

The doubters exist because of his checkered past, and his anxiety disorder. 

White's troubles were there from childhood, even as he made strides in basketball. 

White explains during an article by the Star Tribune, that when he was 10, he and his best friend were at basketball camp practice when his best friend suddenly collapsed. White rode in the ambulance with his friend to the hospital and, although his friend recovered, White traces the beginning of his anxiety disorder to that incident.

As a freshmen in DeLaSalle High School, he lead his team to the Minnesota 3A State Championship Game, sinking the go-ahead bucket to send his team to the finals in a game they would later win.

However, in his junior year, he was forced to transfer to Hopkins High School because of disciplinary reasons.  Yet, he still excelled at Hopkins, building himself to be a highly talented player recruited by University of Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith.

His troubles, though, continued with him in Minnesota, where he plead guilty to theft and disorderly conduct after an incident his freshmen year in the Mall of America; he was accused of stealing $100 worth of clothes and assaulting a mall security guard.

Then, in the following month, he was a suspect in a laptop theft incident; although never accused of the crime, he was later charged with trespassing.  Following these incidents, he decided to transfer out of the University of Minnesota. 

Coach John Calipari of Kentucky asked that White immediately transfer to his program, White agreed.  But his anxiety disorder and his fear of flying got the better of him.  He was unable to board the plane because of a panic attack, and was forced to cancel his trip.

White eventually transferred to Iowa State, but because he did not transfer until the middle of the second semester, he was ineligible to receive a scholarship or play for Iowa during the 2012-11 season.  He appealed, but was denied, and would not be able to play until the next year.

“I’ve changed the last couple of years and have become a guy that emphasizes being selfless. That’s the way I live my life and it’s the way I try and get people around me to live, too.” White states.

Sometimes, you don't realize how much you have until you start losing pieces of it.  In Iowa, White really matured, his approach to life and philosophy changed.  He became committed to sorting himself out, even wanting to go to Tibet.

"If he says he's going to Tibet, you can expect that he's someday going to Tibet." His mother commented, affirming his commitment during an article by USA Today.

During this transition period, Royce became a father.  This was perhaps the biggest catalyst for his change.  Royce currently lives with his son, and Angelic Aguilar, his son's mother. 

These new responsibilities have given Royce a new outlook; and that desire to nurture is present when he talks about being an entrepreneur. 

"Any profits I make will go back to helping people.  There are a lot of places in the world where there's a lot of misfortune, and it's not anybody's fault." 

When Royce started his first season for Iowa State, he was two years absent from playing competitive basketball. In his first game, he managed 25 points and 11 rebounds against Lehigh.  He followed that up three days later with a 21-point, 14-rebound effort against Drake.  He had not missed a beat.

During an away game with Texas A&M, he had his most dominating game of the season, 10 points, 10 assists and 18 rebounds; only the fourth triple-double in Iowa State history.  He then took Iowa State to the NCAA tournament, their first in seven years.

He managed to impress many at Iowa State, including the Houston Rockets, who drafted him in what many considered to be a steal as the 16th pick.

During the Summer League, Royce turned out two great performances, earning two double-doubles.  He ended up averaging 8.4 points and 7.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists during the short, five-game season.

He showed amazing flashes of brilliance along with great basketball IQ, knowing where his man would be. He also has exceptional handling abilities, which may be attributed to the width of his hands, at 11.5 inches, they're the biggest in the draft.  It's not uncommon to find White grabbing a rebound, dribble all the way up court and finishing with a dunk.  Almost Charles Barkley-esque. 

There are some areas the Rockets will look to improve his game; they'll work on getting his weight down slightly, and taking an already athletic player to the next level.  White has can have difficulties with his shot, so he limits them to mostly mid-range jumpers.  Houston will have to continue to develop his shot, as already some defenders are playing away from him, daring him to take a shot. 

Houston plans on running a fast game; Jeremy Lin will lead the offense, but with White's court vision, he'll be a valuable asset to keep the pace high on this offense.  I expect Lin and White's on-court chemistry to be exceptional, however, if White continues to get free-throw opportunities and take drives to the basket like he did in college, he'll have to improve on his 50 percent free-throw percentage. 

Royce White may have a past, but it is not who he is now.  He's made immense strides, and it looks doubtful he will squander his opportunity in the NBA.  He's even improved on his fear of flying.  Since being drafted by Houston, he's been flying across the country, including to Las Vegas for the Summer League.

The Rockets took him knowing they might have some difficulties, but it looks like White is a committed player.  I think that Royce White has every potential to not just be a starter in the NBA, but also an eventual all-star.