AMES, Iowa (WCCO) — Royce White is one of the most talented basketball players that didn’t play for Tubby Smith because of off-the-court issues. He’s now at Iowa State under the tutelage of former Timberwolf Fred Hoiberg.
White finished a troubled high school basketball career on track. Hopkins High School had arguably the best team in the history of the state. And White was front and center — a state title and Mr. Basketball were part of his senior year.
The move to the University of Minnesota never got on track. He never played a minute for the Gophers and faced legal issues his entire freshman year. There was speculation he would never get back and that the people he ran with were evidence he could not make it.
“I think one of the things that people would say is that I was hanging out with the wrong crowd … I would argue that. I would say that the people who wanted me to achieve their vision of success don’t understand how I felt about the crowd I hung out with,” White said.
White knew he could play basketball but he needed a place that would accept him and meet his needs. So he landed at Ames, Iowa at Iowa State University. It’s big time basketball and it’s White’s opportunity to prove that he belongs in college and that he can play at the highest level.
He came with the ability and the baggage, well aware of all of it was his new coach Hoiberg.
“He has got over a 3.0 every semester that he’s been here. And he’s a likable kid, he’s a fun kid to be around. He’s got an anxiety disorder, there’s no doubt about that. It’s diagnosed and it’s something that you have to monitor,” Hoiberg said.
That’s part of his untold story — an anxiety disorder he treats with medication. But that doesn’t excuse behavior, which meant this stop had to be a good one and the reach to help him had to have rewards for both sides.
“Actually had him meet with a whole host of people outside of athletics on campus and everybody felt very comfortable that he should get another chance,” said Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard. “And he has delivered on that. One of the things that I told him is what’s most important when you get a second chance is you don’t screw it up for the next person.”
So far he has rewarded those that provided him an opportunity. White is excelling on a basketball team that features several transfers. White has played both center and point guard at 270 pounds. And this game that he used to live for has changed.
“I love the game. I would say that I don’t love it as much as I did as a kid,” White said.
Some of his new found approach may stem from a new addition. He and his girlfriend of seven years have a 9-month-old son. Now White is learning that fatherhood is like basketball — a challenging endeavor.
“Big part of what I want to do five, 10 years from now. He’s 9 months old and he means the world to me and everything I do is to make the world a better place for him. And let him have some of the things I never got to enjoy as a kid,” White said.
While his name is synonymous with basketball, his interests are much more diverse.
“The music label thing is still going strong. I developed a couple Internet couples that are being created right now,” White said.
But his best bet is playing himself to a pay check, somewhere.
He is no longer in the big city, he is in a college town; a place that can be a fish bowl but can be filled with support and a focus that allows for his comeback.
“What happened in Minnesota, it was tough for me, tough transition for me, tough time in my life. And then having a blessing and a second chance, a guy like Fred Hoiberg coming in here, starting this program, starting his legacy here and them offering me a chance to kind of redeem myself,” White said.
On this night he gets support from the Twin Cities in the form of Rene Pulley, someone who helped White on his summer team in high school. He, like many in his life, hope this stop is about growth.
“I’m so excited for Royce. This is a long time coming. Royce has grown up and now he’s doing what we all expected him to do,” Pulley said.
It’s been a complicated road to where he is and so too his future — a future that he believes will be much more about business than basketball.
“I would acquire as much wealth to put it back in the places that I think are lacking,” White said.