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Let's have a conversation about Royce White (updated)


by Paul Jordan

No Kentucky recruit will be a lightning rod for the haters and the Cali-bashers as much as former Minnesota Gopher Royce White should he eventually decide to become a Kentucky Wildcat. Some of the uproar and paranoia may be justified, but a lot of the hate and bashing that will be coming will stem from people who actually know nothing about Royce White . So let’s get to know this Royce White, shall we, and let’s have a civil conversation instead of jumping on and bashing a kid like some other sites are doing.

First, let’s look at the high school career. White was dismissed from De La Salle HS for academic misconduct. Specifically, the academic misconduct I found was that he was caught cheating on a test. There are rumors that when caught, he yeleld at and threatened (again, a rumor) a teacher at LaSalle. Regardless, De La Salle appears to be a strict school and White was sent packing.

It should be noted that Royce White committed to Minnesota’s Tubby Smith around this time and that Smith did stand by White during this academic fiasco.  During the summer of 2008, White was involved in an altercation during a summer league game with future Gopher teammate Damian Johnson.  While Tubby was heard to have questioned White’s maturity, the altercation was chalked up to White’s “competitive spirit” and Tubby continued to back him.  White transferred to Hopkin’s HS and won a state championship his senior season.  I have not been able to find anything else on White’s grades and a couple of articles said he was a “B” student, despite the cheating episode.

On October 13, 2009, White was involved in an accident at the Mall of America where he was accused of shoplifting a pair of pants and a shirt with a value of $100 and of pushing a security guard.    The resulted in charges of misdemeanor theft and fifth degree assault.  White was suspended by Tubby Smith and White later accepted a plea agreement, forcing him to repay $600.00 and agree to never enter the mall again for a year.  At the same, some Minnesota fans considered this strike two for White and considered his crime as saying “White was arrested for stupidity“ and is not a violent threat. 

While the charges sound bad for White, let’s just calm down a minute and realize that good kids in HS doe get into mischief, and often find themselves at the wrong time at the wrong place.  Let’s recall that John Wall was charged with the breaking and entering of a Raleigh home last spring.  And that Wall was also suspended a game and had to repay improper benefits.  The internet was howling with protest about how Kentucky could recruit such a questionable player and John Wall ended up being one of the classiest ambassadors of Kentucky basketball.  Same goes with DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe.  Despite people wanting to dig into their past and try to sully their names, Kentucky basketball would not have been Kentucky basketball this year without those three.  I admit, none of them were accused of theft and assault …. but these are not Lance Stephenson type things that White did.  And we know that Calipari passed on Stephenson.  If Calipari does decide to pursue White, I respect his judgment.

And then on November 7 of last year, White was “a person of interest” in the theft of a laptop from another student. The details concerning the theft of the computer are sketchy but it appears to be the final straw with Tubby as White was suspended indefinitely.  According to the police details, the student was using the computer shortly before it disappeared and immediately reported it missing.  White, along with several other students were in the dorm at the time.  According to the details from the police report, the dorm room was unlocked, there was no unforced entry, and police were looking at videotapes to see what happened, and several people were going to be interviewed.  On December 16, the University of Minnesota Police Department finished their investigation and forwarded the info to the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office to see if any charges would be pressed.  

All of this appears to have weighed too much on White’s sanity and mind, and of December 19, White announced his retirement from college basketball on Youtube:

Once you get past the purely indulgent matter of this post and the 3:30 minute musical introduction, White makes some very good points. Among other things, he details that the laptop thing was pretty much a botched investigation and that apparently the girl that reported the laptop stolen told the police it was not White that took it. He also expresses his sincere admiration for Tubby Smith and all in all, it is a very interesting look at White. He has some good thoughts and I actually came out of the video oddly sympathetic for White.

**NEW INFORMATION**  It does turn out that White did face charges in the dorm incident.  Apparently White and a group of men were wandering from room to room “introducing himself” to the residents and White was charged with three counts of trespassing.  According to White’s testimony, there was nothing nefarious about his entering the rooms and it was as more of a social interaction:

"In an interview with investigators, White admitted that he was in the hall but said he went there to meet people and that he sometimes went into rooms to introduce himself, according to court documents."

Eventually, White pled guilty to one charge of trespassing and the other two charges were dropped.  White was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and had to pay $100.  It should be noted that no theft charges were filed against White and that there was no type of aggressive or threatening behavior mentioned.  Regardless White was charged in the situation, even though he did not seem to think it was a valid charge:

"“I feel kind of upset I had to plead guilty to a charge like that, a technicality, you know, but it is best to get it all over with,” White said, leaving the court room. “I am just happy it’s all over with. I don’t like being at the court house.”"

Around this time, White also openly discussed the possibility of returning to the Gophers and even after the trespassing charges were filed, Tubby Smith seemed willing to be open to White’s return, if certain conditions were met:

"Last week, Gophers coach Tubby Smith told reporters he’d be willing to talk to White, who recently withdrew from school, about coming back next season if he straightened out his life away from the basketball court. White said he expects to speak with Smith “at some point.”"

Now we
come to present day. Back in May, White apparently met with Tubby Smith and asked to be re-instated to the team. Apparently Tubby had concerns about White’s behavioral challenges and his social circle. White also worked out with Michael Jordan’s trainer and he declared that White would be a first round pick in the NBA in a year or two. And now, apparently, White may be very close to coming to Kentucky. If he comes to Kentucky, there is a lot of debate about when he may be eligible to play.   The most common scenario is that White can enroll in the Fall and possibly be eligible in the Spring.  There is talk he may be eligible for a NCAA exception to give him eligibility immediately, but I do not see that happening?

My take on the situation?  White is a big talent … and a big potential risk.  But I do not see any risk in Kentucky accepting him on a trial basis, and I would love to see them have him redshirt next season.  Doing this gives Kentucky a full year to evaluate him and make sure that all his academic questions and legal questions are out of the way.  Also it gives White a chance to acclimate himself to the college environment, and use the year to get his grades off to a good start.  It also allows him to practice with the team and build chemistry with his teammates and Calipari.  Then next year, assuming all academic goals have been met, he provides a very nice addition to the 2011 team, and he has already had a year to learn the system.  If things work out this way and he redshirts, Calipari takes a high risk situation, and has a year to evaluate and this could be a win-win situation.  Since scholarships are a year to year thing, White as to realize this is his last chance.  It is problematic that White had two legal encounters in about a two month span, but if you look at both individually, it can be looked at as a kid feeling his oats or being a little full of himself while getting adjusted to college.  The trespassing incident will disappear from his record if White is clean for a year, so perhaps White should be given a chance to clear his slate as well.

During this time, White should be on a very tight leash.  Any misgiving in the least would be strike three and a cause to terminate the scholarship. And I think that the redshirt year should be mandatory as it will set a precedent.  White would have to be on the most severe of “zero tolerance policy but if it works out?  It’s a great story all around.  White gets a college education and Calipari has the chance to better the life of  a troubled soul.  And I would hope that White would embrace the redshirt year to get his life together.  The redshirt year will take the scrutiny off him as well. Allow him to get everything sorted out without it being on ESPN every night.  And he comes out of the redshirt year, a year more mature and hungry to succeed on the court and in the classroom.  That would be the perfect scenario.  As hard as it seems to imagine, the Royce White story could have a happy ending at Kentucky.

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