John Leyba / The Denver Post
John Leyba / THE DENVER POST
That long road to the NBA for Derrick White is taking the former Colorado Buffaloes star to San Antonio.
White on Thursday night became the 34th player in the history of the University of Colorado men’s basketball program to get selected in the NBA draft, going to the San Antonio Spurs as the 29th pick in the first round.
White is the third first-round selection and the fourth Buffaloes player overall to be drafted during coach Tad Boyle’s seven-year tenure, joining Alec Burks (first round 2011, 12th overall, Utah), Andre Roberson (first round 2013, 26th overall, Minnesota), and Spencer Dinwiddie (second round 2014, 38th overall, Detroit).
According to a database compiled by the Colorado High School Activities Association, White is the 24th Colorado native to be selected in the NBA draft and the first since former Palmer star Reggie Jackson in 2011.
“What makes it so sweet is that obviously Derrick’s story is a unique one, but every guy that has been drafted didn’t come to Colorado with McDonald’s All-American accolades,” Boyle said. “They developed into NBA players, and that’s what’s so satisfying.
“It says a lot about those kids, because they’re the ones getting it done, but it says a lot about our staff. They don’t get nearly enough credit with the job they do with these guys in the weight room and the film room and making individual improvements.”
White joins a Spurs team that finished with the second-best record in the NBA before getting eliminated by eventual champion Golden State in the Western Conference finals. White will get to learn the professional game under coach Gregg Popovich, the Air Force Academy graduate who has led the Spurs to five NBA championships.
“Absolutely a perfect fit,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “Coach Popovich and their organization from top to bottom, the things that they value from top to bottom, Derrick fits them to a T. It’s a match made in heaven in my mind.”
White’s unique story has been well-documented, as he graduated from Legend High School in Parker in 2012 without a single Division I scholarship offer. Bolstered by a late growth spurt that gave him a 6-foot-5 frame, White became a Division II All-American at UCCS before fulfilling a wish for a bigger challenge by transferring to CU.
Despite a disappointing campaign for the Buffs, White made the most of his one season in Boulder by turning in a brilliant all-around performance. His team-leading scoring average of 18.1 was the best by a CU player since Burks averaged 20.5 during the 2010-11 season, and his 148 assists was the eighth-best single-season mark in the program’s history.
White shot .507 overall and went a solid 57-for-144 (.396) from 3-point range. White and the No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz from Washington, were the only players in the Pac-12 Conference to rank in the league’s top 10 in scoring, assists, and blocked shots. White was named to the All-Pac-12 first team and also was named to the league’s all-defensive and all-tournament teams.
It was a big night for the Pac-12, as Fultz became the first No. 1 overall selection out of the league since Bill Walton in 1974. As expected, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball was selected second by the Los Angeles Lakers, while Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen went seventh to Minnesota (traded to Chicago).
The Pac-12 enjoyed a total of six first-round selections, a list that also included UCLA’s TJ Leaf (No. 18 to Indiana) and Utah’s Kyle Kuzma (No. 27 to Los Angeles Lakers via Brooklyn).