It hit fast for fans. All season long Royce White avoided attention from even the most accurate mock draft websites.
Then, the NCAA tournament happened. Royce White was the feature show for two games in Louisville that hosted some of the nation’s most heralded power forwards.
It was said that Andre Drummond wouldn’t have an issue with him. Drummond is strong, athletic, and quick laterally. That didn’t even last through the first Iowa State possession when Royce White rumbled coast to coast before planting a thunderous dunk on the UConn defense.
Between Drummond and Oriakhi, White could not be stopped. Man among boys and all of the superlatives that go along with that.
Then, Greg Anthony suggested that Royce wouldn’t be able to do those things against Kentucky. After all, not only did they have Kidd-Gilchrist to offer some perimeter help but Royce would have Terrence Jones squaring off with him. Just as big, just as athletic, and just as quick. “…and oh by the way, when you get past him you’ll have Anthony Davis (GAME CHANGER!!) waiting for you.”
We all know how that ended…Kentucky won the war while Royce won the battle. White went for 23 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, and accumulated 3 turnovers (one that sent Fred Hoiberg into a rage of fury that earned him his first technical since junior high—seriously). White did that while shooting 9-12 from the floor and making 5-9 free throws.
Included in the performance were spin moves and drop steps on the block that he converted into buckets and four dunks; two of them being coast to coast hammers that followed with the now famous, “I’m the best player on the court” comments.
It would be hard to prove that wrong.
Those two games in that one weekend vaulted Royce’s draft stock to new heights, the timing of his performance for his climb couldn’t have been more impeccable. He had played against some of the best NBA prospects in college basketball and not only did he hold his own, he was winning individual matchups.
The one wish I had looking back was that we could’ve seen him and Anthony Davis going head to head. I understand why Kentucky didn’t do that with Davis, so that he could roam and block shots while helping his teammates. But, Davis is widely regarded as the best defensive player in the country and it certainly would’ve provided an entertaining matchup.
The peculiar thing in all of this is what took so long for the draft gurus to notice? White played even or better in both of his matchups with Thomas Robinson during the season and all year long he had been doing things that no one had ever seen done before by a man of his size.
His combination of size, strength, and quickness with his style of play and skills is one of the most unique combinations that many have ever seen.
The only thing more unique than Royce White’s on the court game is his off the court persona.
From his dealing with the anxiety disorder to becoming something of a spokesperson for the disorder to his apparent affinity for the city of Ames, Iowa State University, Fred Hoiberg, and the fans.
He was always impressive in interviews while thoughtful with his responses and articulate with his answers. Chris Babb dubbed him as “the most interesting man in the world” and I’m not yet convinced that he was wrong.
Because his draft stock rose so high, so fast, and at the end of the season while we expected him back almost all along makes the news of the day more difficult. With Marcus Fizer and Craig Brackins (sophomore and junior seasons) you knew it was a possibility that they’d leave early with over a month left in the season.
We were allowed to watch them in the context of, “I may never see this show inside Hilton Coliseum again.”
We should’ve done that with Royce anyway even though the draft gurus were late to the party. What we witnessed was a special player doing special things and it all seems to have ended so sudden.
But, Royce did special things for Iowa State as well. First off, in the face of scrutiny by many ISU and non-ISU fans he came to Ames and proved to be a good citizen. He made the most of his second chance on and off the court. He delivered one of the best seasons in Iowa State basketball history that ended because the team ran into the buzz saw known as Kentucky.
Doug Gottlieb stated yesterday that if Iowa State were an 11 seed they’d still be dancing because of how well they were playing. The fact of the matter is that a tough draw and the nation’s best team ended the season too soon for the Cyclones and the career too soon for Royce White.
His legacy and place in Iowa State history will be cemented over the coming years but for now we should appreciate what we were all witnesses to this basketball season. His jersey will likely never hang in the rafters but he will not soon be forgotten. He helped to bring Iowa State basketball back from the doldrums and on to the national stage.
Iowa State has done a lot for Royce White and Royce White has done a lot for Iowa State. More than anything, through all of this, I hope Royce succeeds in all of his future endeavors (and there are many) and I hope that he lands with the best possible fit in the draft for a long NBA career.
It’s been a long strange trip for him, I am sure, but all of the rewards he receives will be well deserved.
Good luck, Royce