It has been roughly a year and a half since Derrick White decided to roll the dice with his basketball career.
The easy move would have been to make no move at all. White, after all, was in the midst of a historic career at UCCS, earning Division II All-American honors while putting up points at a pace that surely would have drawn the interest of NBA scouts regardless of the relatively small gyms in which White was putting on nightly shows.
White wanted more though. And so with one year of eligibility remaining, White opted to leave Colorado Springs, eventually packing his bags for Boulder to join the Colorado Buffaloes.
The long wait between that life-altering decision and White’s CU debut finally is almost over, with the fifth-year senior now counting the days for the Buffs’ season-opener on Nov. 11 against Sacramento State.
“I’m definitely excited. But we’ve still got a long ways to go,” White said. “I’ve just got to focus every day in practice and try to make myself and my teammates better each and every day in practice and learn from them.
“You kind of know it when you make that move from D-2 to D-1. I prepared myself for it this whole time and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride. This is a blessing. Not a lot of people get to play high-level Division I basketball. I’m just trying to have fun with it and enjoy the ride.”
A late growth spurt helped White evolve from a standout at Legend High School in Parker, overlooked by Division I recruiters, into a 6-foot-5 dynamo, who wasted no time putting together a remarkable career at UCCS. During his rookie season of 2012-13 White won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year honor, and a year later, he was a third team Division II All-American selection.
During his junior season of 2014-15, White rewrote the UCCS record book, winning the MVP award at the RMAC tournament and dropping a school-record 50 points against the Colorado School of Mines in the NCAA Division II tournament. This time White was a second team All-American selection, yet despite the lofty accolades, it wasn’t until CU head coach Tad Boyle vetted the opinions of his coaching peers around the RMAC that he became convinced of White’s ability to play in the Pac-12.
The reviews were exclusively raves. Once White received his release from UCCS and the requisite paperwork was handled, the once-overlooked prospect was on his way to Boulder.
“There were a couple that I talked to that to say they were raving is an understatement,” Boyle said. “It was, ‘This guy is as good as he wants to be and can play anywhere in the country, can play in any league in the country.’ He’s the real deal. It wasn’t like this was their opinion. There was conviction in their voices.
“When you get compliments from your opposing coaches or your opposing players, that’s worth its weight in gold. If he wasn’t any good, they’d have wanted him to stay. But they know how good he was.”
Of course, White has yet to play a single minute of Division I basketball, and it remains to be seen how his unique skill set will translate to the next level. A full year practicing alongside his teammates, where he more than held his own and often looked like the best player on the floor, certainly helped. As will playing alongside a cast of veterans well-versed in what it takes to reach the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re all excited. But we all know we have a lot to work on and we need to not look too far ahead,” White said. “Just taking it day-by-day and the little things will turn into big things. I’ll probably be nervous (for the opener). It’s always been a dream to play on this court. Just putting on that jersey and getting out there with my brothers, I’m pretty excited.”