When Derrick White first took the court for his sole season of Division I college basketball with Colorado, he rang in the season with a 3-point shot, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect metaphor. Much like that score, White’s been a long shot for the NBA since he first played at Legend High School in Parker, but now he’s about to realize that dream.
Although they’re not always the most reliable, various draft projections place the former Buff in the late first round to early second round after seeing his stock rise significantly in the NBA Combine. Since then, he’s seemed to garner national attention wherever he goes.
An undersized player coming out of high school, no D-I university would give White a shot. He only received two D-II offers from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Gillette College. After first three cacophonous years at UCCS – during which he easily surpassed the school’s four-year scoring record – the upper-division schools started taking notice.
Throughout his entire collegiate career, White has embodied the image of the perfect teammate: Talented, a leader, and, perhaps most importantly, completely selfless. His agent, vice president Michael Lindeman of Excel Sports Management, believes that these traits have carried his game during the past few months of NBA pre-draft workouts, the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and the Draft Combine last month.
“He’s definitely a ‘we’ guy, and who he is as a person, his family, and his background has all been received very positively by NBA teams,” Lindeman said. “You watch how he plays the game, he plays it the right way and is a very unselfish basketball player. The more teams have seen him throughout this process – and that’s the reason that he played in Portsmouth and at the Draft Combine – the more they have realized there is a lot to like, which is obviously a positive for him.”
His selflessness translated on the court during his career with UCCS, as he recorded 1,912 points, 343 assists and 513 career rebounds. After sitting out a year per NCAA regulations, he made quick work of his undeniable talent at Colorado as he surpassed the 2,000-point career mark within a matter of weeks, which is almost unheard of in college basketball, at any level.
In his sole season with Colorado, White led the Buffaloes with an average of 18.1 points per game (615 points total), 4.4 assists per game (148 total), 42 steals and 49 blocks.
Much like his journey from high school to, eventually, Division-I basketball, some NBA teams have found themselves behind the learning curve when it came to scouting White.
“There were teams that knew about Derrick and scouts that knew about him, but at the same time plenty who didn’t,” Lindeman said. “This whole process for him has been about the remainder of the NBA teams finally catching up on him. His story is certainly refreshing and when you look at where he came from, I think it says a lot about his character, work ethic, and his confidence.”
By the time the draft rolls around on Thursday, White will have showcased his talents in group workouts for 13 teams, including the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Brooklyn Nets. And while his confidence hasn’t seemed to waver in the slightest from his college days, the always-humble guard knows there’s still work to be done to excel at the next level.
“My strengths are my playmaking ability and how personal I am out there, being able to make plays in multiple positions and some things like that,” White said. “Something I can work on is just getting bigger and stronger, being more physical and continuing to work on my body.”
There is also, of course, concern over his age, as the trend in the NBA lately has been to draft the young, star athletes from the one-and-done schools. But Lindeman said he’s not concerned over how much that may be a factor for White, who turns 23 in a few weeks.
“Once you get past that first grouping of younger point guards, I think you can easily make the argument that Derrick is the next-best point guard in the Draft,” Lindeman said. “Derrick offers the ability to play and contribute to an NBA team right away and many teams are looking for that. I think there’s no doubt that everybody believes he can step in and contribute right away.”
With his ability to run an offense both on-ball and off-ball, his shooting skill and defensive abilities, there’s little White can’t do. That talent, Lindeman believes, will serve White well in the draft this week and throughout his entire NBA career.
“There’s a lot to like if you’re an NBA team when it comes to Derrick,” Lindeman said. “He has a very high basketball IQ, he can shoot it, he’s got great size, he plays both ends of the court and he’s versatile. On top of that, he’s someone who will be ready to contribute right away. We couldn’t be more excited about how he’s done throughout this process and about his future.”