Five years ago, Derrick White was a high school senior whose only scholarship offers were from a junior college in Wyoming and a partial from Division II Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Taking a housing stipend to attend Colorado-Colorado Springs, White had a growth spurt soon enough. He was the first All-American in program history before he transferred to the University of Colorado.
On Thursday, the Spurs selected the former zero-star recruit in the first round of the NBA Draft with the No. 29 pick.
White, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard from Colorado, averaged 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals in 2016-17.
He was one of two players who ranked in the PAC-12 Top 10 in scoring, assists and blocks. The other, Washington’s Markelle Fultz, went No. 1 overall.
“The determination and character that he showed to continue to raise his level,” Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford said. “A lot of guys might have lacked confidence in stepping up to these different levels. He’s not only stepped up, but excelled as he’s moved up the food chain. He’s got another big jump coming.”
Upon graduating high school in 2012, White was 6-foot-0 and 150 pounds. Without any Division I scholarship offers, he took the Division II stipend.
After three seasons at Colorado Springs, White showed he was ready for the leap to Division I.
He was named to the Pac-12's 2017 All-Conference First Team, All-Defensive Team and All-Tournament Team.
“It was surreal to get that call that I was a first-round pick,” White said. “All the hard work and dedication that I put into this game, it was definitely a fun time.”
Buford said White played both point guard and shooting guard at Colorado. White played for Colorado coach Tad Boyle, who was a player at Kansas when Buford was an assistant.
At Colorado, White had four 30-point games, becoming the first Buffs player to accomplish the feat in a season since Chauncey Billups.
Now, White will be able to pay off his student loans from Colorado Springs.
“I just want to get there and join the Spurs’ way,” White said. “They have a great history and Coach Pop has done an amazing job.”
One stat Spurs Buford pointed out was White’s shooting percentages. White shot .813 percent from the free throw line, .507 percent from the field, and .396 from 3-point range.
“You don’t find 80/50/40 guys in college very often,” Buford said. “Derrick has proven to be one. We think he can defend at a higher level than he has up to this point. When you have to do so much for the team like he did in Colorado, you can’t afford to get into foul trouble.”
White was the first college senior drafted by the Spurs since George Hill in 2008.
In a draft where 16 freshmen were selected in the first round, including the first five overall picks, the Spurs were the first to select a college senior.
“What we found with Derrick was that he had all the qualities that we look for in a person and the basketball fit was right,” Spurs Assistant General Manager Brian Wright said. “He fits well in the system, and he’s a guy who can help us.”
In the second round, the Spurs selected another senior, Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, with the No. 59 pick. A 6-7, 220-pound forward, Blossomgame averaged 17.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 2016-17.
“There’s a certain maturity level that comes with being a professional,” Wright said. “With guys who have worked their way through, who both come from quality programs, they have that maturity and understanding of what it takes to be a professional.”