Overtime

Area athlete grew into role as NBA starter

Column by Jim Benton
Posted 1/9/19

As soon as coach Kevin Boley walked into Sagewood Middle School and saw a skinny, curly-haired kid, he knew he had found a player. Boley was holding open tryouts for the first Legend High School …

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Overtime

Area athlete grew into role as NBA starter

Posted

As soon as coach Kevin Boley walked into Sagewood Middle School and saw a skinny, curly-haired kid, he knew he had found a player.

Boley was holding open tryouts for the first Legend High School basketball team some 10 years ago when he first saw Derrick White.

White, now a 6-foot-4 second-year professional with the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association, was part of Legend’s first graduating class in 2012 and was a leader of the infant Titans basketball for four seasons.

He had a good basketball IQ, good skills and was sneaky quick. His biggest problem was his physical size didn’t measure up to his special athletic ability.

He grew to 6 feet tall by his senior year at Legend, when he was an All Continental League performer on a league all-star team that produced major college recruits in Josh Perkins, Josh Adams and Cory Calvert.

Still, college recruiters would just mumble that 6-foot guards are a dime a dozen.

White was overlooked and wasn’t recruited but he continued to work hard and grow taller.

His father, Richard, came up with a “Dare to Be Great” slogan, which White still employs as he still plays with that chip on his shoulder to prove his worth.

“That has driven him in a very positive way,” said Boley.

“He worked on his fundamentals, his ball handling and everything,” said his dad. “He was always small. When he was a junior the doctor said his growth plate was still open so he was eventually going to grow. We sent out stuff to area schools to see if he could get a look. We knew he had the ability. It was just getting him the opportunity.

“When you looked at him, nobody would have thought he would grow to somewhere between 6-4 and 6-5. I would say you have to stay the course, keep working and when you get the chance to do something, you have to make the most of it.”

White got an opportunity when Gillette College in Sheridan, Wyoming offered White a scholarship, but Johnson and Wales coach Jeff Culver also showed some interest before Culver accepted the head coaching position at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

White followed Culver to UCCS with only a housing stipend and planned to redshirt, but he was put him into the lineup and became a Division II All-American and the school’s all-time scoring leader in three seasons with 1,912 points.

“It was right path for him to take,” admitted Richard White. “He was really small and still growing, and the opportunity he had at UCCS was very good. He got more opportunities than if he had gone to another school that was more established or if he had gone to a DI school.

“He just would have probably sat on the bench or been a practice player. He learned a lot at UCCS, got a lot of experience and after that just kept working and got better and better.”

He transferred to Colorado, sat out a season, and then became an All-Pacific 12 performer. He was selected by the Spurs in the 29th round of the 2017 draft.

“I always thought he had a chance to get paid to play,” said Boley. “I knew he had that kind of talent. He was a special player. In the month leading up to the NBA draft I got phone calls from eight or so people around the league.

“They were interviewing me. They were asking questions about his character, work ethic, how he handles adversity and would he do anything that would embarrass the organization and those kinds of things. Derrick is a wonderful human being and the community has loved him.”

College coaches still ask Boley if he might have another Derrick White.

The determined White, who played with both the development league G League Austin Spurs and San Antonio his rookie campaign, overcame an injured heel this season and has become a Spurs’ starter. In the past 10 games, he is averaging 26.1 minutes, 9.1 points, 3.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game.

On Dec. 28, in a Spurs loss to the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center, he scored 10 points with six rebounds, three assists and six steals in front of his family, Boley, Culver and Legend players.

“It was pretty surreal to see that,” said his proud dad.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

Jim Benton

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