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Q&A With Royce White

Talking positional ambiguity, pattern recognition and music with the Rockets' rookie forward

HOUSTON - With training camp about a month away, several Rockets players are already back on the Toyota Center practice court, working to get ready for the upcoming season. To find out what they’ve been up to this offseason, Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman will sit down with each player over the next few weeks to discuss what they’re working on, what their goals are, and how they’ve been spending the summer both on and off the court.

Taking his turn in the hot seat today is rookie forward Royce White. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.

JCF: What have you been up to since we last saw you in Vegas?

RW: Relocating took up a lot of my time, making sure my house was in order. Having OCD, it’s really important for me to get myself organized obviously, so I can get into a nice work flow. That was a process. I never imagined how hard that was going to be and how tedious the work was going to be. But I finally got it under control and now I’m settled in and ready to go.

JCF: After your Vegas experience, and now getting an opportunity to work out with some more NBA-caliber players here in Houston, do you have a better feel for what position you might be best suited for early on, or does that even matter to you at all?

RW: It’s hard to say because I don’t even know what position I’m going to be playing, or even if I’m going to play early on. I keep my expectations for myself high, but my expectations for what may happen in the future low. I don’t expect anything, I don’t think that I’m guaranteed a thing. I sort of look at it like I’m going to prepare myself for every scenario, including not playing early on, and if I do get to play then that’s a great opportunity and blessing.

But I do assume that whatever they throw me out there to do, I’ll excel at it just because I’m a good problem solver and I learn quickly.

JCF: For what it’s worth, after watching you play in Vegas and giving it some thought, I find myself thinking less about what position you’ll be playing and far more about the areas on the floor you’ll be best equipped to exploit and make use of your skill set. If you’re at the elbow with the ball in your hands, you’re going to be able to make plays regardless of whether you’re playing the four or the three or anything else for that matter.

RW: Yeah, well one of the things that’s good about players with my size and skill set is, like you said, it doesn’t matter as much what position you play. For example, even take a guy like Michael Jordan: He was a two-guard in the Bulls’ triangle offense, but he was always getting the ball down on the block. So when you have a player like that, all bets are off. There is no blueprint. It just comes down to whatever coach wants to do, whatever he thinks will work, and whatever shows some consistency. From that standpoint, it will be up to me to show that I can perform and produce consistently in those situations.

JCF: What sort of feedback have you received from the coaches so far?

RW: Coach McHale tells me that he likes that I can get where I want to get with the ball because it’s going to draw defenders and he knows I’m a capable passer. At the same time, I have to work on finishing, shooting and really everything. But right now I’m really spending a lot of time working on finishing with contact around the basket and working on making quick moves because the length and speed of defenders at this level is so different. In college you could wait around a little bit and beat your defender one-on-one and the help-side defense isn’t nearly as good as what I’m going to face in the NBA.

JCF: We talked a lot in Vegas about the creative process on and off the court, and what it means to possess the sort of vision that can help you see things develop before they actually happen. Another thing I wanted to explore was how important pattern recognition is when it comes to being a playmaker, and how pivotal a role it plays in terms of being able to rapidly recognize similarities in systems and subtle movements. My theory is that if you have a special gift to recognize patterns, then it probably increases the odds that you’ll be a better playmaker.

RW: Well, here’s one of the ways I think that applies to me. One of the No. 1 things basketball teams coach on defense in their big men, which are primarily the guys who guard me, is to have them sprint back to the rim after a missed shot. Well if I get the ball off the backboard and am bringing it up, nobody is stopping me because they’re all trying to sprint back to the rim. And if they do try to stop me before they get into the paint, then I have the ability to get by most big guys.

So that poses a problem for a lot of teams just because it’s so untraditional. I recognize patterns in that way. I just know what they coach people to do and I just try to play to that. If I get the ball off the backboard and I’m coming, then I know what’s going to happen already because it’s so traditional and consistent and a lot of people cannot counter that unless they go back and reconstruct their whole system.

JCF: Well I can’t let you go without asking you a bit about what you’ve been listening to this summer. What have you been immersing yourself in musically of late?

RW: I’m really doing a lot of my own things right now. I think you’ll hear this from other people who are very creative: I’m really focused on blocking out all the popular things so that they don’t influence you and that you don’t just become another piece of the pop movement. Of course if your things are successful then they become popular, but it’s important to have your own identity. So I’m really trying to create my own identity without having too much influence.

I definitely listen to a lot of OneRepublic. Maroon 5 is one of my favorite bands and they just came out with a new album. Even though they have a new band member, he’s fantastic and it’s just a different Maroon 5. And I’m still into the Beatles. I’m really trying to go back and find unheard Beatles material now – that’s what I’m really into: the under the radar stuff; who was writing with them; who was helping them. So I’ve been trying to find that stuff out and then going to listen to those people’s music as well.

So I’ve just been digging, getting into music history – that’s what I’m into. But OneRepublic is always classic and Maroon 5 is obviously pretty good, too.

JCF: So a month left until training camp starts – what’s on your agenda until then?

RW: Get back in the weight room. It’s been a whirlwind three months with moving around, doing draft workouts, coming off of a season, summer league, then the rookie transition program, then I had to move. So it’s been tough to get into a good zone as far as lifting and eating the rights things are concerned – that’s going to be really important to me the next couple months.

JCF: Do you want to add weight or are you trying to get leaner?

RW: I like to be as big and strong as possible. The bigger and stronger I get, it doesn’t make me any slower. Actually, as my legs get stronger I get faster. And my frame is one where I can carry weight. I played at 272 throughout college so I definitely want to get back there.