Spurs Guard Derrick White Looking To Make The Most Of Next Stop On Basketball Journey – National Team Training Camp
Derrick White’s basketball journey has definitely not been your traditional trip.
After graduating from Legend High School in Parker, Colorado, in 2012, he attended college about an hour south at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, an NCAA Division II school. He started all 85 games he played in through his first three seasons, becoming the school’s career leader in points (1,912) and assists (343). He transferred to Division I University of Colorado — an hour north of Parker — for his senior season, averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.4 blocked shots and 1.2 steals a game.
The San Antonio Spurs liked what they saw and selected the guard with the 29th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Needing a little more development, the Spurs sent him to the NBA G League. Flash forward two seasons and White is now on the cusp of another remarkable achievement.
White is one of 15 players vying for 12 spots on the USA Basketball Men’s National Team that will compete in the 32-team FIBA World Cup in China from Aug. 31-Sept. 15.
“Yeah, it's been crazy,” the 6-foot-5 White said after Wednesday’s practice at the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice facility. “I mean, the whole basketball journey has been pretty crazy. So I'm just enjoying it and going along with it.”
His odds continue to improve. Just this week, 2016 Olympic gold medalist Kyle Lowry dropped out due to a thumb injury that he said on Instagram has not been medically cleared. One of six guards still in camp, there is another variable to his making the roster: Marcus Smart has a calf injury that has sidelined him from full practice participation for about a week.
Oh, and White has one more advantage. The coach of the U.S. is the legendary Gregg Popovich, who is White’s coach with the Spurs.
“I guess it is an advantage,” White said. “I'm new to the team, but I probably still know (Popovich’s style) better than everybody else. ... Just being familiar with the system and terminology know that, you know, a little bit can go a long way.”
White had already been in camp in Las Vegas, but was with the USA Select Team, a group of players brought in to scrimmage the National Team. Following Friday’s nationally televised game between the two teams — in which he had 12 points, eight assists, three rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes — White was elevated to the National Team.
“He’s doing great,” Popovich said Tuesday.
The whole experience appears to be a bit surreal for White. During his rookie season, he was part of the group of G League players that helped the U.S. qualify for the World Cup. But he is soaking it all in while bolstering his game.
“I just have to be able to adapt to everything that's going on and being thrown at me, different teammates, different rules, different ball, so just to adapt and figure things out on the fly,” said White, who started 55 of the 67 games he played in this past season for the Spurs after appearing in just 17 games as a reserve during his rookie year.
White’s next chance to make a significant impression comes Friday, when the U.S. plays an exhibition against Spain, the second-ranked team in the world, at the Honda Center in Anaheim. With the way the current roster sits, it is likely White will travel with the team to Australia for more training and three exhibitions before the roster is finalized in China prior to the USA's Sept. 1 opening game against the Czech Republic at Shanghai.
“It'd be amazing,” White said of potentially making the 12-man World Cup roster. “I mean, special to be a part of a team that's going to chase for a gold medal and chase for a medal. For me to dream of stuff like this — especially to wear those three letters for a game.”
Smart spent most of the first hour of Wednesday’s practice riding a stationary bike while watching practice to test out his injured calf. While not in uniform, he did participate in some shooting drills and appeared to move well in the short intervals.
Popovich said Tuesday after the first practice in El Segundo — and the first action for the team since Friday’s Blue-White game — that Smart was unlikely to practice for the “next couple of days.” That would make it very unlikely Smart’s first action would be Friday against Spain.
Scrimmaging Against The Select Team
The second half of Wednesday’s practice was divided into two scrimmages against the Los Angeles Select Team, which is coached by Jeff Van Gundy.
Featured on the Select Team were Justin Anderson, Chris Chiozza, Scottie Hopson, DaQuan Jeffries, John Jenkins, Yante Maten, Ben Moore, Chinanu Onuaku, Chasson Randle, Travis Trice and Travis Wear.
Eight of the Select Team players are former USA World Cup Qualifying team members - Chiozza, Hopson, Jenkins, Moore, Onuaku, Randle, Trice and Wear, with Randle and Wear having played in two WCQ windows and Trice playing in three windows.
The National Team was split into two seven-player squads for the scrimmages.
"They’re doing really well," said Popvich of the National Team's progression and the development of the kind of ball movement he's looking for. "They’re probably over doing it, actually. They’re a good group, they try to please, and they want to play the right way. It’s really a teachable group. Willing to learn and play together so I’ve enjoyed them a lot."
Steve Drumwright is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.