Royce White

American basketball player

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Royce White
20120303 Royce White on the bench.jpg
White while at Iowa State
Personal information
Born (1991-04-10) April 10, 1991 (age 29)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Listed height6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)
Listed weight260 lb (118 kg)
Career information
High school
NBA draft2012 / Round: 1 / Pick: 16th overall
Selected by the Houston Rockets
Playing career2012–2018
PositionPower forward
Career history
2012–2013Rio Grande Valley Vipers
2014Sacramento Kings
2014Reno Bighorns
2016–2018London Lightning
Career highlights and awards

Royce Alexander White (born April 10, 1991) is a former American professional basketball player. During his tenure with the NBA, White struggled with mental health issues, mainly general anxiety triggered by his highly publicized fear of flying,[1][2][3] and he has been an advocate for the National Basketball Association (NBA) to expand their mental health policy.[4] White has since embarked on an Mixed Martial Arts career, beginning his training in 2018 with plans for a first fight in 2020.[5]

White was the 2009 Minnesota Mr. Basketball and a two-time Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) championship team member. He was a Class 3A MSHSL champion in 2006 with DeLaSalle High School as a freshman and a Class 4A MSHSL champion in 2009 with Hopkins High School as a senior, leading his school to a perfect (31-0) record.

White played college basketball with the Iowa State Cyclones basketball team starring for the 2011–12 Cyclones, leading his team in every major statistical category. Before that he was a high school basketball star in the state of Minnesota and had committed to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers men's basketball team before being suspended by the team and transferring to Iowa State. White was called the "mystery pick"[6] of the 2012 NBA Draft due to his NBA ready body, point-forward skill set, and public disclosure of his generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) diagnosis during his season at Iowa State. White was drafted in the first round by the Houston Rockets and is considered a "draft bust".[7][8]

In his rookie season with the Rockets, White expressed concerns about the lack of mental health policy within the NBA. He publicly advocated for a comprehensive policy for all players. White cited this stance as his reason for missing all of the 2012–13 NBA season for the Rockets, despite being under contract.[9] He did play for the developmental league affiliate for the Vipers. Kathy Behrens, NBA president of social responsibility and player programs, has commented on White saying the league has "great respect for Royce speaking about his struggles". She says the NBA is not new to the issue but has "a growing understanding of the importance of the subject".[10] A former NBA general manager described White as a "Curt Flood-type figure" with regards to White's "moving the needle in terms of getting comfortable talking about anxiety and mental health."[5]

In 2017, after a hiatus from professional basketball, White reemerged to play his first full pro season in Canada. He was the 2017 regular season NBL Canada MVP and led the Lightning to the NBL Canada champion. In June 2018, the London Lightning confirmed that White would not be returning to the team.

Early life

Royce was born in 1991 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Kevin Tucker and Rebecca White. White started playing sports at the age of five in the South St. Paul, Rondo, and North Minneapolis communities. His grandfather, Frank White, has been a lifelong athletics and recreation figure.[11]

High school career

White went to DeLaSalle High School for his freshman to junior years.[12] Following his sophomore season, in which he led DeLaSalle to a 19–8 record, White participated in the 2007 LeBron James US Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio and The Nike Global Challenge at the University of Portland.[13] For his senior year, White went to Hopkins High School. After transferring to Hopkins, he won the Class 4A MSHSL Championship in 2009, giving him his second state championship.[14] Hopkins finished 10th in the final USA Today national poll, with a 31–0 record.[15] He was rated as the 2nd, 8th and 10th best high school power forward in the national class of 2009 by, and, respectively.[16][17][18] Rivals ranked him 19th overall, while ESPN ranked him 35th.[16][17] He had dozens of collegiate scholarship offers,[13] including Minnesota, Creighton, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Purdue, Texas, USC, and Wisconsin.[18] White was one of 20 2009 Jordan Brand Classic All-Americans,[19] and he was recognized by the St. Paul Pioneer Press as a First-Team All-State honoree.[20]

US college sports recruiting information for high school athletes
Name Hometown High school / college Height Weight Commit date
Royce White
Minneapolis, MN DeLaSalle (MN)
Hopkins (MN)
6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) 205 lb (93 kg) Apr 23, 2008 
Recruiting star ratings: Scout:4/5 stars   Rivals:5/5 stars   247SportsN/A    ESPN grade: 94
Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 10 (PF)   Rivals: 19, 2 (PF)  ESPN: 35, 8 (PF)
  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height and weight.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.


  • "Minnesota Commit List for 2009". Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  • "Men's Basketball Recruiting". Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  • "ESPN – Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball Recruiting 2009". Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  • " Team Recruiting Rankings". Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  • "2009 Team Ranking". Retrieved December 3, 2011.

College career


White pleaded guilty to theft and disorderly conduct in the October 13, 2009 incident at the Mall of America; he was accused of taking $100 worth of clothes and of fifth-degree assault when he allegedly pushed a mall security officer to the ground twice, but he claimed the security officer was charging at him and he was defending himself.[21] He was suspended for the 2009–10 NCAA Division I men's basketball season.[22] The suspension was for competition and travel, but at the discretion of head coach Tubby Smith, White could attend practices.[23] According to his grandfather, he attended some Gopher practices in December.[24]

White was a suspect in a November laptop theft from a university dorm,[21] but after 3 months of investigation the University of Minnesota police department did not have enough evidence to charge him with theft. He was formally charged with trespassing in January.[23] He left the University of Minnesota in February 2010.[22][25][26] He had unofficially announced his departure from Minnesota via YouTube in November,[27] but had not formally notified the athletic department.[28] Despite his legal difficulties, White achieved better than a 3.0 grade point average in his first semester at Minnesota.[29] While suspended from the team, he spent some of his extracurricular time on his passion for music.[30]

Following his departure from Minnesota, White initially gave up on transferring to continue playing college basketball.[31] He was considered to be a National Basketball Association Draft first-round talent at the time.[32] Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg became acquainted with White during Hoiberg's tenure on the staff of the Minnesota Timberwolves.[33] By the summer of 2010, he weighed 250 pounds (113.4 kg).[33] At one point, White was expected to transfer to Kentucky.[34] White explained that he was considering transferring but told John Calipari he was having reservations about it. White was also considering transfers to Georgetown, Baylor, and UCLA, but decided on Iowa State.

Iowa State

White for the 2011–12 Cyclones vs. the Iowa Hawkeyes

Because White did not officially depart Minnesota until the middle of his second semester, he was academically ineligible to receive a scholarship from any Division I school in 2010.[35] The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) usually requires a two semester residency for transfers.[36] He transferred to Iowa State prior to using any of his athletic eligibility at Minnesota and applied to the NCAA for a waiver to be eligible to play during the 2010–11 NCAA Division I men's basketball season,[20] but the NCAA denied his waiver.[29] Iowa State appealed the decision,[37] but their appeal was denied.[38]

At Iowa State, White joined a team that included several transfer students.[39] He was voted as the 2011–12 Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year and then won the first Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week award of the season following his November 12 double-double debut performance against Lehigh with 25 points and 11 rebounds.[40][41][42] White had a double-double in his second career game as well three nights later against Drake with 21 points and 14 rebounds.[43] Then on November 25 against Providence, he recorded 16 rebounds.[44] On December 3, against 15th-ranked Michigan he recorded a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds as well as 4 steals.[45]

White on defense
White defending against Thomas Robinson of Kansas
White defending against Perry Jones III of Baylor

In conference play, White posted his first triple-double on January 7 against Texas A&M with 10 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists plus a block and two steals.[46] His triple-double was one of thirteen NCAA DI triple doubles during the season. It was the fourth in Cyclones history and the first in a road game. It was the twelfth in Big 12 conference history and the sixth in intraconference play.[47] On January 9, White was recognized for a second time as Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week for leading Iowa State to its fifth 2–0 Big 12 start ever.[48] On January 14, White posted a double-double against tenth-ranked Kansas with 18 points and 17 rebounds.[49] On January 24, White posted 15 points and 15 rebounds against Texas for his sixth double-double.[50] On January 31, White scored 22 points, including the winning shot with 1.8 seconds left in a 72–70 victory over Kansas State.[51] White's seventh double-double came on February 7 against Oklahoma State when he scored 15 points and added 12 rebounds.[52] On February 22, White posted 13 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 8 assists against Texas Tech for his eighth double-double of the season.[53] For the week of February 20–26 White averaged 11 points, 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists while shooting 57.1% from the field to earn his third Big 12 Rookie of the Week award. At the time of his third rookie of the week recognition, he was the only Big 12 player in the conference's top 5 in terms of rebounds and assists.[54] White concluded the regular season with a double double against Baylor on March 3 when he totaled 11 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.[55]

White's attacking Quincy Acy (left) and Perry Jones III (right)

He added a 17-point, 10-rebound double double in the 2012 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament in a loss to Texas.[56] In Iowa State's opening game of the 2012 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, White posted 15 points and 11 rebounds in a victory over Connecticut.[57] His season concluded with a 23-point, 9-rebound, 4-assist and 3-steal performance in a loss to Kentucky.[58] White fouled out for the first time in his career in the game and ended the season with 11 double-doubles.[59] White finished the season as the team leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks,[60] making him the only player in Division I basketball to do so.[61]

White's early- and late-season looks (top Nov. 30, 2011; bottom Mar. 3, 2012)

On March 4, following the 2011–12 Big 12 Conference men's basketball season, he was named the unanimous Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and was recognized as a First team All-Big 12 and a unanimous Big 12 All-Rookie Team selection by the Big 12 coaches.[62] In addition, he was selected as Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and was recognized as a First team All-Big 12 selection by both the Associated Press and the Kansas City Star.[63] He concluded the regular season 2nd in the Big 12 in rebounding and 5th in assists with averages of 9.2 and 5.2, respectively.[62] On March 1, he was named to the 30-player midseason Naismith College Player of the Year Award watchlist.[64] He was selected by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association to its 10-man 2011–12 Men's All-District VI (IA, MO, KS, OK, NE, ND, SD) Team.[65] White was a first team selection to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I All‐District 8 team on March 14.[66] White was named an honorable mention Associated Press All-American.[67]

White was the only player in the nation to lead his team in the five major statistical categories: points (13.4), rebounding (9.3), assists (5.0), steals (1.1) and blocks (0.9). He was the first cyclone since Fred Hoiberg (1993–94) and second ever to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists. His final Big 12 rankings were 2nd in both rebounding and field goal percentage (53.4%) as well as 5th in assists. He ranked 34th, 36th and 57th nationally in those same statistics. His 316 rebounds and 170 assists ranked 7th and 10th all time in school history for single-season totals. His single-season rebound total was the most by a Cyclone since 1978 (Dean Uthoff, 378).[68]

On March 21, 2012, White chose to forgo his junior and senior years at ISU to enter the 2012 NBA Draft. On that date he stated his intent to hire an agent.[69]

College statistics

2011–12 Cyclones 34 33 31.5 .534 .333 .498 9.3 5.0 1.2 0.9 13.4

Professional career


At the 2012 NBA Draft Combine, White measured at 6'8" and had the widest hands—11.5 inches (29.2 cm)—of any player participating.[70] According to Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, "He's such a unique player and plays such a different style that it's difficult to compare him to anybody". When asked who in the NBA he would compare White to, Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari had this to say about White: "Here's a kid that would rather pass and get 15 assists than score a basket. It's amazing. And he plays tough, and he's got huge hands. So you'd better grab the ball with two because he'll grab it with one."[71] He was able to bench-press 185 pounds 30 times in pre-combine workouts. That would have been an NBA combined record had he bench pressed.[72] White was drafted by the Houston Rockets on June 28, 2012 with the 16th selection.[73] He was represented by Andrew Vye and Andy Miller of the ASM Sports as his agents.[74]

White missed the opening of NBA camp on Monday October 1, due to a desire to have a contractual plan put in place with the Rockets and the NBA that addressed the league wide mental health policy or lack thereof. After sessions with his own long-time doctor, White requested permission to travel by bus when necessary in order to limit his flight schedule.[75] The Rockets and White came to an agreement regarding travel, including allowing White travel by personal bus rather than flying (which has been an anxiety trigger in the past for White). White missed the first week of training camp before this agreement was put in place.[76][77]

A few games into the season, White had a dispute with the team regarding the inconsistency of the way mental health was being dealt with. He cited the danger of team executives being able to make decisions regarding mental health and health with no mental health training. This led to his absence from the team.[78][79] These events coincided with the Rockets' plan to assign White to their Rio Grande Valley Vipers NBA Development League affiliate along with two other young players.[80] The team agreed to meet with White on Monday November 19 to resolve his issues.[81] By the end of the week, the situation remained unresolved.[82] Two weeks after the situation began, the Rockets were optimistic.[83] On December 20, White was confirmed to begin practice sessions with a member of the Houston Rockets' staff within a week.[84] As of December 26, he had not shown up to work with the Rockets according to Rockets head coach Kevin McHale.[85] On December 29, Houston assigned White to its D-League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers.[86] On December 29, David Aldridge of TNT reported via Twitter White had practiced with the team and that the assignment was part of a multi-week plan to reintegrate White into the organization.[87] On December 30, White again refused assignment to the Vipers.[88] As explanation, White issued a statement. Aldridge summarized White's objections: the playing environment is unsafe; White requested involvement of mental health professionals; and White claimed that the Rockets' efforts are misleading.[89]

In a January 2013 interview, White stated "chances are very high" he would never play an NBA game, blaming what he believed to be a league-wide "lack of protocol" on mental health issues.[90] This claim has since been confirmed by numerous NBA insiders.[91] He further stated he did not hold blame against the Rockets' organization and that he still wanted to play for Houston.[90] On January 6, 2013, the Rockets suspended White without pay for failing to perform his contract.[92]

On January 26, 2013, the Rockets and White mutually agreed that he would report to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on February 11, 2013.[93] On February 8, White passed his physical.[94] On February 12, after four months of contractual dispute, White made his professional debut with the Vipers in a 139–122 win against the Maine Red Claws, playing 18 minutes and leading the team with 8 rebounds from off the bench. White also scored 7 points and totaled 4 assists.[95][96][97]

Following the reconciliation, a USA Today story detailed White's situation. Although White endured 20 flights for travel during his season at Iowa State, the Rockets' NBA schedule called for 98 flights. White had attempted to cope with travel in college through use of Benadryl and Xanax, but found both reduced his energy level, although it never showed in his statistical output. White cited that his concern for the increased number of flights and long term use of these types of medication could lead to dependence and addiction (which is common concern and a point of consensus concern regarding benzodiazepines in the medical community. White likened mental health conditions to a day-to-day physical injury in which symptoms can be dynamic and unclear, but support and policy should be adequately proactive).[98]

On March 21, White announced via Twitter that following professional medical advice of team doctors along with his doctors, he would no longer be playing for the Vipers. White claimed "there were things that needed to be addressed and now is a good time."[99] After missing three road games to Indiana and Pennsylvania, White returned to the Vipers for their final six games, which were all home games, but he did not anticipate participating in the "hectic" playoff schedule.[100]

When the Vipers began the playoffs on the road against the Maine Red Claws on April 11, White did not travel with the team.[101][102] The Vipers went on to sweep all three playoff series,[103][104][105] but White did not play with the team.[106] Over the course of the season, White traveled using a bus provided by the Rockets for 15 road games.[107]


On July 3, 2013, the Rockets omitted White's name from its Orlando Summer League roster, which was conspicuous according to Houston Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen.[108] Two days later, several news outlets confirmed that White and the rights to Furkan Aldemir had been traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for future considerations, which helped Houston clear $1.7 million of salary cap space to help sign Dwight Howard.[109][110][111] As White waited for the trade to be approved, he played in a YMCA league.[107] On July 13, the 76ers announced the deal officially.[112] White participated in voluntary offseason workouts with the team and was expected to participate in training camp when it began on September 28.[113] On September 27, at media day, White stated that he planned to travel with the team when necessary (even on its pre-season trip to Spain).[114] However, White did not make the October 4 trip with the team to Spain. The press reported that 14 players traveled with the team and 5 did not.[115] CBS Sports journalist Matt Moore gave three possible reasons for White's absence: 1.) goodwill effort by the team, 2.) a sign the team plans to waive him, 3.) a conditioning issue.[116] Philadelphia Daily News reporter Bob Cooney tweeted, "White, who suffers from anxiety disorder, planned to make the flight but team 'gave him a pass,' source told me."[117] According to 76ers coach Brett Brown, "It really was just based on our team doctor giving me and [general manager] Sam [Hinkie] and the club advice that it may be best for him to remain at home."[118] The box score from the first game of the road trip indicates that 15 players traveled with the team and 5 did not.[119] On October 25, 2013, White was waived by the 76ers as they cut their roster from 20 to 16 before the October 28 deadline to reach a 15-man roster.[120] The move was described as surprising to various NBA analysts such as's Eliot Shorr-Parks and Bleacher Report's Joe Flynn.[121][122] On October 24, USA Today had run an article suggesting that White was fairly certain to make the team.[123] By mid-December, White was living in Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania with his wife and children aged 2.5 years and 6 months and had switched agents from Andrew Vye of ASM Sports to George Bass of AAI Sports.[124]

On March 6, 2014, White signed a 10-day contract with the Sacramento Kings, but was immediately assigned to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA D-League.[125][126] He made his debut for the Bighorns the next day in a 112-86 win over the Idaho Stampede. In 26 minutes of playing time, he recorded 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.[127] On March 14, 2014, he was recalled by the Kings.[128] On March 18, he signed a second 10-day contract with the Kings.[129][130] On March 21, White made his NBA debut by playing 56 seconds for the Sacramento Kings. He accumulated no statistics in the Kings' 99–79 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.[131] After White's second 10-day contract expired, the Kings decided to part ways with him.[132]


In March 2015, White said he continued to aspire to play professional basketball.[133] He became a 2015 NBA Summer League target for several teams,[134] and later joined the Los Angeles Clippers to play in the Orlando Summer League.[135][136]


On December 8, 2016, White signed with the London Lightning of the NBL Canada.[137] During the season, he set a league record for triple-doubles with 4 (plus one in the playoffs).[138] On May 11, 2017, he was named the 2017 NBL Canada regular season league MVP.[139] On June 5, White posted 34 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists to lead the Lightning to their 3rd NBL Canada Championship since the league was formed in 2011.[140][141]


On July 28, 2017, White re-signed with the London Lightning for the 2017–18 season.[142] He led the league in scoring with 25.4 points per game.[143] On April 27, 2018, White received an 11-game suspension during the 2018 playoffs for a verbal outburst with an official and the deputy commissioner of the league, effectively ending his season.[144] White was named to the First Team All-NBLC.[145] After the end of the season, the London Lightning announced that White would not be returning to the team.[146]


On July 12, 2018, White signed a deal with Auxilium Torino of the Italian LBA and the EuroCup Basketball.[147] However, he did not report for training camp and his contract was officially voided on August 23, 2018.[148]


In early 2019, White released a book, "MMA x NBA, A Critique of Modern Sport in America", and announced that he is transitioning into mixed martial arts.[149]. As of August 2020, White had not yet participated in an MMA event.

Career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high


Regular season
2013–14 Sacramento 3 0 3.0 .000 .0000 .000 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0
Career 3 0 3.0 .000 .000 .000 .0 .0 .0 .0 .0

NBA D-League

Regular season
2012–13 Rio Grande Valley 16 8 25.6 .444 .100 .659 5.7 3.3 .9 .8 11.4
2013–14 Reno 4 4 24.8 .367 .333 .625 4.3 2.8 1.5 .2 8.8
Career 20 12 25.4 .431 .211 .653 5.4 3.2 1.0 .6 10.9


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External links

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