Full Circle

25 years later, Joe D drafts a guard that evokes analogies

Terrico White, a guard from Ole Miss, met with the media on Saturday at the Pistons' practice facility.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
In 1985, the Pistons drafted an under-the-radar guard to a roster already stacked in the backcourt. Isiah Thomas was a transcendent star at point guard coming off a season in which he averaged 21 points and 14 assists a game. John Long was the steady starter at his side, a knock-down shooter and 15-point scorer. And Vinnie Johnson had only recently been christened “The Microwave” by Boston’s Danny Ainge for a typically scorching performance in his off-the-bench role during the ’85 playoffs.

So nobody could quite figure out why Jack McCloskey drafted a soft-spoken but tough-as-nails kid Pistons fans had never heard of in the first round.

But Joe Dumars worked out OK.

“That worked out very well,” Todd Ramasar, White’s agent, laughed Saturday as the Pistons introduced their two 2010 draft choices, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe and Mississippi’s Terrico White, to the media at their practice facility.

A quarter-century later, bringing the story full circle, it was Dumars playing the role of McCloskey and taking a player he saw as the best talent available at 36 despite a backcourt already filled with a young point guard (Rodney Stuckey) and an All-Star veteran beside him (Rip Hamilton) with one of the league’s most explosive scorers (Ben Gordon) coming off the bench.

The Pistons thought White would be gone in the mid 20s. Ramasar only agreed to workouts with teams choosing from 15 to 30 in the first round, so certain were they – at least when the draft process began to unfold in May – that he was a first-round talent. Pistons personnel director George David says he knows that at least two or three teams picking in the 20s had White as their No. 2 option if another player they had in mind was unavailable. And ESPN reported that White very nearly was Atlanta’s pick at 24.

But Ramasar and White weren’t disappointed by the turn of events that saw the Ole Miss sophomore, 20, taken by the Pistons with their second-round pick.

“He’s a kid that’s still growing,” said Ramasar, an associate of prominent NBA agent Bill Duffy. “Like any other 20-year-old, that’s why I say it’s very important for a young player to land with the right organization. This is the right fit. This is probably the best fit. There were probably one or two other teams that might have been an equally good fit, but you talk about the front office executives in Joe Dumars and Scotty Perry, the coach in (John Kuester) – this team has won championships under the former owner, Mr. Davidson. We couldn’t ask for a better fit.”

Dumars is clearly enamored with the character and temperament of both his draft choices.

“Both of these guys are terrific basketball players,” he said. “We think they’re going to help us. We like their skill sets. We like all of the things they do on the basketball court. I think what you’re also going to find out is two very humble, down-to-earth young guys, handle themselves extremely well, good guys, have their heads on straight.

“I think they’re going to make this organization proud, they’re going to make their family, their friends – everybody they represent – they’re going to make them proud. They’re going to make the Pistons proud on and off the court and that’s important to us.”

Ramasar, who attended the press conference as did Monroe’s agent, David Falk, is just as enthusiastic in his endorsement of White’s character.

“Terrico is very confident, but modest and humble,” he said. “He’s a very hard worker, comes from a great family. His mother is a military woman. He’s very passionate about basketball, but he’s a very tough kid. That’s why he played football. As a Southern kid, that’s in his roots.”

He did more than just play football. He was a three-year starter at quarterback in high school and also a pitcher with a 90 mph fastball. There’s a significance to that, Ramasar believes, that goes to White’s view of himself as a point guard capable of playing other positions, but ultimately a point guard.

“Terrico is definitely a player that needs the ball in his hands,” he said. “He was a quarterback in high school and a pitcher in baseball. I tend to look at other sports that players play and see if it’s a cerebral position, like point guard, or the position that translates to another sport. His success as a football player at quarterback and his success (his freshman season) at Mississippi as a point guard, Terrico is definitely a playmaker.”

White has something in common with Stuckey despite similar physical stature, too – both came out of high school emulating Dwyane Wade. Asked to compare himself to a current NBA player, White said Saturday, “I would like to pattern myself after Dwyane Wade. I’m more comfortable playing the one, but whatever I play, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to come in and work hard – extremely hard. I played quarterback in high school, so I’m used to leading a team.”

Even though White improved statistically from his freshman to sophomore years at Ole Miss, the perception held that he had a somewhat disappointing year. That and, perhaps, uncertainty over what position he was best suited to play could have dropped him out of the second round behind guards like Dominique Jones and Jordan Crawford – more clearly defined as scorers and shooting guards – who went in the mid 20s.

The Pistons felt that had White gone back to Mississippi and further refined his basketball skills, he would have been projected as a potential lottery pick next season.

“He felt he was ready,” Ramasar said. “From a maturity standpoint, from talking to him and talking to his family, he was ready to move on and continue his development. That’s been his goal since he was younger. He saw that dream starting to become a reality when he was in high school as he transitioned to Mississippi.

“I wouldn’t say (his sophomore season) was disappointing. That was the perception. But his averages went up, he matured, he got to play another position and get experience at the two. The good thing about Terrico is that even though he thinks he’s a one and is going to have success at the one, you can move him over to the two and play him as a two with ballhandling capabilities. It’s all based on the offense and the coach and how they utilize their talent. This organization has always had success with big, athletic guards – Chauncey Billups, Rodney Stuckey.”

And, starting 25 years ago, some guy from McNeese State that Jack McCloskey added to an already loaded backcourt.