Editor’s Note: Throughout the month of June, Timberwolves.com will profile a series of prospects that could be available at Minnesota’s No. 18 pick during the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28. Part seven details local product Royce White, a Minneapolis native who has already been in for a workout with the Wolves. PROSPECT: Royce White POSITION: Small forward SCHOOL: Iowa State CLASS: Sophomore HEIGHT: 6’8” WEIGHT: 270 lbs. PROJECTION: picks 15-30 THE LAST TWO YEARS As a result of leaving the University of Minnesota during the second semester of his freshman year, White was required to redshirt his sophomore season at Iowa State and sat out the 2010-2011 season. White entered 2011-2012 with much hype and was named the Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year. The Cyclones went on to make the biggest single season improvement of any team in Big 12 history, winning 9 more conference games than the previous year. Coached by former Timberwolves player and employee Fred Hoiberg, White led his team in scoring (13.4), rebounding (9.3), assists (5.0), steals (1.1) and blocks (0.9), becoming the only player in the nation to reach this accomplishment. Iowa State made their first NCAA tournament run since 2005, beating Connecticut but losing in the second round to eventual national champion Kentucky. He was named All-Big 12 First Team among other awards and honors.
STRENGTHS From an exclusively basketball standpoint, White is a great NBA prospect. His ball-handling is exceptional for his size. He often runs the floor himself after grabbing defensive rebounds, and has been described by coach Hoiberg as a “freight train” driving to the hoop. With a big, thick frame, he still keeps the ball close to his body and has an effective crossover. Scouts like his passing ability (especially out of the high post) and the many ways he can fit into an offense, being such a unique talent. He is very active in the paint, and he knows how to use his size to finish a bucket or grab a rebound. QUESTION MARKS White’s on-the-court weaknesses mostly have to do with his shooting and defense. Although he has a decent midrange shot, his three-pointer is inaccurate and rarely used. He struggles from the free throw line, shooting under 50% in his one season at Iowa State. Conditioning is also a question, as he has gained quite a bit of weight since high school. Weight reports vary from 250 to 280 pounds. The most important questions NBA teams will ask White pre-draft have to do with his checkered personal life. Originally a prized recruit of Minnesota Gophers coach Tubby Smith, White left the program after accusations of laptop theft in the freshman dorms and an incident where he pushed down a security officer at the Mall of America. These events, coupled with getting kicked out of DeLaSalle High School and a recently diagnosed anxiety disorder, are major causes for concern.
Word out of Chicago’s draft combine, however, was that NBA executives were thoroughly impressed by White’s answers to their questions. He seems to have matured into an interesting and unique person while at Iowa State, as he expressed during combine interviews that he is an avid reader who also plays the piano and is influenced by John Lennon’s philosophy and music. White’s anxiety has given him a troubling fear of flying, which is obviously problematic for a professional athlete. He has been flying all across the country for the last month, which indicates that he is at least making progress. WHAT HE CAN BRING TO THE WOLVES White is the most polarizing player in the draft, and has been repeatedly described as “high-risk, high-reward.” If he can manage his anxiety and prove that he has matured past his legal issues, he could be a dynamic contributor off the bench for an NBA team right away. With plenty of questions swirling around him, however, it's almost impossible to guess where he will land in the draft.