The White Stuff

Pistons rookie's trainer sees unlimited future for Terrico White

Terrico White's personal trainer has seen him improve on a daily basis this summer.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
Remember last month’s viral video of Terrico White at the NBA’s rookie photo shoot when an impromptu dunk contest broke out? The one where White stole the show from high flyers like Wesley Johnson and John Wall with a 360 windmill that included a between-the-legs element?

Turns out White, the Pistons’ No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft with the 42-inch vertical jump, was performing with a handicap.

“He called me right afterward,” Adam Wilson, White’s personal trainer, laughed Tuesday from the Pistons’ Auburn Hills practice facility. “He was like, ‘You know my shoes weren’t tied.’ I’ve seen him do that stuff a lot in the gym. He’s a phenomenal athlete.”

Wilson and White drove to Detroit on Labor Day from St. Louis, where they’d detoured after leaving White’s Memphis home to visit his brother, and Wilson intends to stay with him from now until training camp starts Sept. 28 to continue the work they began together in the weeks leading to the June draft.

Wilson, an Indiana native who dabbled in coaching at Southern Mississippi and junior college, is based in Los Angeles and connected with White through his former agent, Todd Ramasar, of Bill Duffy’s BDA Sports Management firm. He’s worked with several of BDA’s clients in the past, most recently Darren Collison and Brandon Jennings from the 2009 draft class, and Wilson sees an unlimited ceiling for White – if he can convince him how good he can become.

“I had Darren Collison through his whole draft process for three months and I had Brandon Jennings for a few weeks,” Wilson said. “People ask me all the time, (but) Terrico is just different than those guys. I’ll just put it like that – he’s different. He’s kind of scary. On the outside looking in, you wonder if he really knows how good he can be. That’s scary, especially when you’ve got a kid that’s willing to listen.

“And he is. He hasn’t been tainted by AAU. He hasn’t had a lot of people telling him he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. He’s humble – and that’s good.”

Wilson sees large chunks of Dwyane Wade in White’s game, fully acknowledging that to come close to Wade’s status White has to become a naturally aggressive player and live in the gym.

Besides mechanical tweaks – mostly involving tightening up White’s ballhandling – Wilson focused more on White’s mind-set in their summer work, attempting to instill in him the instinct to maintain an aggressive nature.

“That’s the main thing with Terrico,” Wilson said. “When he’s aggressive, he’s dynamic. He’s something else when he’s aggressive. He has tremendous ability to score the basketball. His mid-range game is really nice. He can get to a spot quick, two dribbles, and his elevation is great with a 42-inch vertical. But the thing about Terrico is he’s really, really, really never been pushed before. Now he’s in the NBA and he’ll really get pushed. I think you’re going to see great things out of him.”

The Pistons were pleased with several aspects of White’s Summer League performance. He split time between point and shooting guard and turned the ball over just four times in 130 minutes, displayed a nice shooting stroke and impressed with his ability to take sideline instructions out to the floor. Wilson, though not disappointed by White’s Summer League experience, says it wasn’t an accurate reflection of what the Pistons landed with the draft’s 36th pick.

“He played really safe in Summer League,” Wilson said. “We didn’t necessarily know what the Pistons wanted out of him, whether they wanted him to be the scoring point guard or just facilitate. We were in that gray area. Just be safe. He didn’t do much to hurt himself out there. He handled the ball well, he was solid, he distributed well. He did a good job, but he could have done a lot more.

“I worked with him through the draft process and saw something different every day. Did you see all he could do in Las Vegas? Not even close. He’s a quiet kid, no expression. He’s the type of kid that will drop 50 points on you and won’t say a word. A humble Southern kid but a great talent. It’s all about keeping him aggressive and that’s what I focus on – just keeping him aggressive, keep him on edge.”

Wilson did that by setting goals for White in the drills he designed for him, and if White didn’t meet them, he’d make him run.

“I try to push certain buttons with him. When a kid is not always aggressive, you have to find a way to almost trick him. That’s the difference, I think, between him being an average player in this league and being an All-Star. I’m really tired of reading things about him not being aggressive enough, he disappears. We’re going to fix that – definitely.”

Wilson saw noticeable improvement over the summer in White’s ballhandling skills and feels that while he has the physical tools to play either backcourt spot, point guard will draw out the best White has to offer.

“I don’t know how he’s going to fit in here being that they have a few point guards,” he said. “With his size and his shooting ability, he can play the two. But when you see him in college, when he had the ball in his hands he was really, really effective, and he’s really aggressive when he has the ball in his hands. When he’s off the ball, he’s kind of passive at times. His freshman year (at Mississippi), when the point guard went down they moved him to the point and he’s Freshman of the Year in the SEC. He’s a tremendous athlete, a tremendous player, and his ceiling is really high – 20 years old.

“His handle, when he got to me, was a little loose. He dribbled the ball kind of high. But now I have him in a stance, have the ball at knee level. Going past his man, shoulder at the man’s hip, head up. We’ve still got work to do, but he’s improved a lot.

“He improves every day. He’s one of those kids, he wows you at first, but then the second day, it’s like, man, he did that? Each day you’re going to see different things. And he’s a hard worker. When you get him between the lines, he works his butt off. I just want to get him to the point where he’s a gym rat, where I don’t have to tell him, ‘Terrico, you have to get to the gym.’ When he’s like, ‘OK, time to go to the gym,’ that’s when you know you’ve turned the corner.”

The Pistons believed White’s knack for scoring would become his ticket to early NBA playing time when they drafted him, and Wilson wouldn’t be surprised if that were to prove the case. But he thinks his defensive ability could just as easily get him noticed by John Kuester.

“Everybody focused on how high he can jump, but laterally he’s really, really quick, he has long arms and he’s really strong,” Wilson said. “I think he can be one of the better defenders in this league. Right now, you just want to do whatever it takes to get on this floor. If that’s defending – which I think it’s going to be – that’s what we’re going to do.”