Derrick White doesn’t have the resume of a typical potential first-round pick.
But without his journey through the Division II ranks, his discovery amongst coaches would have never occurred.
“A lot of people don’t know about Division II, that there’s a lot of really good players there. You can come from anywhere and make it to where you want to be,” White said via the Gazette. “I learned a lot there, especially my freshman year. I learned how I have to play. Just having the trust that coach Culver put in me at an early age, being allowed to do things, it helped me grow. I wouldn’t be in this situation without coach Culver and the staff and my teammates at UCCS.”
White played three seasons at Division II Colorado Springs before transferring to Colorado for one final year of eligibility. Colorado head coach knew he had a wing player that was capable of scoring on any possession. But he knew with his basketball instincts that he had a player with the ability to be more than just a scorer.
“He had never played point guard,” Boyle said via NBA.com. “He’d played on the wing because he’s a scorer; that’s kind of how he’s wired. (He has) point guard skills, but he’d never played there. So we made a decision: He’s our best player, our best ball handler, our best passer and our best decision maker. We needed to get the ball in this guy’s hands as much as possible.”
The talent was there for the Colorado native, but he wasn’t the biggest guy by any means. White grew several inches before his freshman season at Colorado Springs. He knew why he wasn’t getting much buzz around the recruiting trail, but that didn’t stop him from working on his game.
“I’m sure it was because of my size,” White said when asked about why schools overlooked him. “There are a lot of good players that don’t get recruited, for a lot of reasons. Maybe they’re a couple inches too short, or a step too slow. But my size was the biggest thing holding me back.”
His former coach will always have high praise for his former shooting guard — especially with his ability to create with the ball in his hands or off the ball. With the demand for stellar shooters increasing every calendar year, White will be in demand come draft night.
White’s skill set goes beyond his ability to knock down shots. White put up numbers on the offensive end, averaging 18.1 points per game on 50.7 percent shooting. He will contribute immediately on the defensive side as well.
“I think he can play the one at the next level,” Boyle said. “He can play on or off the ball. And more importantly for the NBA, he can guard multiple positions. He’s got length, athleticism, jumping ability. (White is) going to get stronger. He’s going to become a more consistent shooter.
“Those are things that happened throughout his high school and college career. And they’ll continue to happen in the NBA.”
The versatile guard has risen up draft boards slowly and steadily after an impressive performance at the NBA combine and the Portsmouth Invitational.
One NBA analyst took notice in Chicago.
“I think that if he did really well in workouts, there’s a chance someone in the 20s could take him (in the first round),” ESPN draft analyst Fran Fraschilla said via The Denver Post. “He’s comfortably ensconced in the second round. He really knows how to play the game, and he fits what the NBA is looking for: a shooter who makes good decisions who is a great teammate and who has great character off the court.”
A former NBA executive was also impressed with the former Colorado star.
“He showed versatility and caught my eye being a guard who can guard on the perimeter and shoot the ball well,” said Tom Penn, an ESPN analyst, and former NBA executive. “I don’t know any way to say it other than he looked like an NBA player out there. He brought the versatility.”
White is highly regarded amongst General Managers and Scouts from around the NBA — Jerry Colangelo and the Philadelphia 76ers in particular. The Sixers GM is a fan of the former Buffalo. Philadelphia holds multiple picks and the Sixers might look to pair White with the potential number one overall pick Markelle Fultz.
“He’s going to be a really solid player,” Colangelo said via CSN Philly. “I had a chance to see him quite a bit. I was at the Pac-12 tournament this year, I saw two or three games and he brings a lot. Offensively, he’s got a knack for scoring the basketball, he’s got a handle, he can create shots. He does a lot of things. He’s a guy that knows how to score and he’s just got a nice feel for the game.”
While his journey to the NBA has had many detours in the road, White, 23, will prove at the next level that age is in fact just a number.
“I feel really good about how it’s going,” Derrick White said via the Gazette. “I’m just trying to show what I can do, let them get to know me as a person, let them know I’ll do whatever it takes for the team.”