Colorado’s Derrick White started off his Division I career in the most fitting way possible on Friday night — and his dream of playing at this level of college basketball was a long time coming.
As the first shot of the Buffaloes’ 2016-17 season flew out of the senior transfer point guard’s hands from downtown and through the nylon, the metaphor of his journey to this level couldn’t have been more perfect.
Coming out of high school, D-I coaches across the board believed White’s success at the collegiate level was going to be a long shot. Not anymore.
He finished his first game as a Buff with nine points, four assists and two rebounds as he helped CU to a 90-53 victory in Boulder over visitor Sacramento State. And he did all of that on a bum ankle that he hurt earlier in the week during practice.
“It was a cool feeling, playing with my teammates,” White said. “I was looking forward to this game for awhile, so to score the first points, it was awesome. I’m glad we got this win.”
Coach Tad Boyle praised White’s efforts tonight despite his minor injury setback.
“You know, the thing about Derrick is he was about 70 percent tonight,” Boyle said. “He twisted an ankle two days ago at practice, and he’s not at 100 percent, nowhere near 100 percent. He showed great toughness and resolve to even play tonight, and I think there wasn’t anything that was going to keep him from playing.”
After the talented guard battled at Division II University of Colorado-Colorado Springs for the first three years of his career, he decided to take his talents to the highest level of college basketball. He didn’t have to go far from home to find the best fit for him.
At UCCS, White paced his three years with a 22-point scoring average, 5.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals. In his shortened career with the Mountain Lions, he broke the school record with 1,912 points and 343 assists while making his way up to fourth in rebounds all-time (513).
When he asked for his release from UCCS two years ago, Boyle quickly pounced at the opportunity to nab the star guard.
It was the metaphorical three point shot he had hoped for.
Per NCAA regulations, White had to sit out last year, but his season away from the limelight paid off, as he transitioned to the DI speed of the game.
“He’s pretty special,” Boyle said.
After seeing his son work so hard to get to the DI level and to succeed the way he did on Friday night, his father, Richard, said he couldn’t be prouder that he finally got to achieve his dream.
“It’s a long time coming,” Richard said. “You wonder if he can do it. Then when he goes out there, he looked comfortable out there, so getting ready for the rest of the season, it’s like, ‘Okay, he can do this.’
“We’re really, really proud of him and the fact that he’s just out there playing — I mean, even if he doesn’t score — the fact that he’s out there playing with his teammates and you see him smiling and laughing and talking, that’s all you can hope for.”
Just wait until he gets back to 100 percent.
The Buffaloes entered the 2016-17 season with a strong showing from behind the arc, as they sank 13-of-21 of their three-point shots (61.9 percent). Their depth showed in strong numbers tonight, as seven players added to that triple threat from downtown, including Dominique Collier, newcomers Lucas Siewert, Deleon Brown, Josh Fortune, White, George King and Tory Miller.
Siewert and Brown debuted their college careers with nine points apiece, and Siewert added five rebounds to the total to round out his game a little more. Watch out for these freshmen to make a difference for the Buffs this season.
“The strength of this team is going to be the balance of this team,” Boyle said.
White and the rest of the Buffaloes return to their home court on Monday, Nov. 14 as they take on Seattle University at 7 p.m.