Thursday, December 08, 2016

Former NBA'er Royce White signs with the London Lightning

The London Lightning announced some big news on Thursday morning, with owner Vito Frijia adding former Iowa State star and NBA 1st round pick Royce White to their roster. White joins the team despite not having played basketball in nearly two years, with his last experience coming as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers Summer League team in July of 2015.

The move is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, White becomes the most notable signing in NBL Canada history. Players of his pedigree simply haven't played in the NBLC before. The second reason is White's history with mental illness. According to an ESPN article from 2012, White was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in 2008, which has caused complications with teams he has played for in the past.

White enjoyed a tremendous season during his junior year at Iowa State, averaging 13 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. That combination of interior strength and an ability to move the ball caught the eyes of NBA talent scouts, leading to the Houston Rockets to select him 16th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. However, that relationship did not last due to concerns between White and the team on how his mental illness was being handled, leading to White being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, who then waived him. After joining the Sacramento Kings on a pair of 10-day contracts, the team did not offer him another deal.

At 25 years old, there is still plenty of time for White to get back to the level of play he experienced in the past. "I never thought that it would be over." White said during his press conference in London, "It was only 4 years ago." While he will need some time to get back into playing shape, the Lightning wouldn't be making this move unless they were willing to exercise patience while he rounds into form. When he does take the court, White can be the type of big body the Lightning don't really have in camp right now. Additionally, his ability to stuff the stat sheet in a variety of categories would more than make up for the apparent loss of Stephen Maxwell. "We had success with small bigs, and in our league, he's a bigger guy, but he plays like a small big." said Head Coach Kyle Julius, "We can just insert him into our 4/5 spot no problem."

Additionally, if White is successful, this signing could be also be a big win for athletes with mental illnesses. With mental illness becoming a bigger issue in the sports world with every passing year, and White being an advocate for helping those afflicted, his success could provide a template to be followed by teams in other leagues to follow when handling athletes with mental illness, while raising awareness throughout the season. White is a founder of the advocacy group Anxious Minds, and the Lightning are supporting White's work. "They are 100% supportive," said White, "Obviously Vito has shown in the community that he is of that humanitarian cloth, and he his fully supportive of me being the same way."

As for the NBA, White still dreams of making a return. "I watched the NBA since I was 4, 5 years old." he said, "The NBA was a dream for a long time. Still is a dream. I still literally have dreams of putting on those jerseys, playing those arenas."

Time will tell if the arrangement will work, but with White eyeing a return to the NBA, and the Lightning eyeing a return to the NBL Canada Finals, the potential for a happy partnership is there.