Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @crazysportgirl1.
Four years ago, college basketball teams barely batted an eye at then-high school guard Derrick White. Now, as he prepares to enter his red shirt senior year at the University of Colorado, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs transfer couldn’t be more excited to prove the schools that passed him up wrong.
“I didn’t talk to any D-1 schools out of high school,” White said. “I got a partial scholarship from UCCS; that and the (junior college) scholarship were my only two.”
Though White did receive a full-ride scholarship from Gillette College in Wyoming, he decided to go with the less windy, partial-scholarship route. He said he believed his shooting style ultimately deterred the major schools from recruiting him back in the day, but he changed his perspective and his game once he arrived at UCCS.
“In high school, I was strictly threes, mostly,” White said. “I shot a lot of threes, and then at UCCS I didn’t shoot as many threes. I started getting to the basket more. So I just widened out my game a little bit and I became more of an attacker than just a shooter.”
In his three years at UCCS, White excelled shooting from the field. He scored 1,912 points, assisted the ball 343 times, and finished fourth in school history in career rebounds with 513. He also tied the school career scoring average at 22 points a game.
In addition to his individual achievements, White led the Mountain Lions to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for Division II during his sophomore and junior years. Based on those performances, he was later named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-America team.
This past season, his improved all-around game and the success of his Mountain Lions team in the Big Dance caught the attention of the Colorado Buffaloes.
“I felt like, when I went to UCCS, I grew a little bit after high school,” White said. “And then I could kind of see my game change from high school and that probably caught (Colorado’s) attention.”
When Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and his staff offered White a financial aid agreement and a spot on their roster, he jumped at the opportunity.
“This is a great school and the coaching staff here is great,” White said. “I felt like this was the best opportunity for me to further my academic and athletic situation.”
After White won over the Colorado coaches, Boyle finally has the All-American he has always wanted on his team.
“He’s a terrific young man, a hard worker, a great teammate, and he’s very humble,” Boyle said of White. “He’ll be a pro. There’s no question that he’ll be a professional basketball player when he leaves here. Now what level? That’s yet to be determined, but he’s a terrific player.”
For now, White must sit out a year to fulfill the NCAA transfer regulations before charging the court with his new team. It’s not something Boyle is exactly happy about.
“He’s going to be a heck of a player for us. I wish we had him this year,” Boyle said. “The thing I love about him is he’s very energetic and he has a great feel for the game that you can’t coach. You guys are really, really going to enjoy watching him play next year and I’m sick to my stomach that we don’t have him for two years; we only get him for one.”
Although Buffs fans won’t see White in action until next season, he plans to take the extra time given to him to not only further his education, but to improve upon some of the weaknesses in his playing style.
“I think this next year is going to be huge for my game, and how I can just get better on myself and try to work on those little things that will help the team win the following year,” he said.
As it stands right now, he has a similar weakness on defense that the rest of CU’s squad endured all of last season.
“I need to work on defense, mostly, and start to guard the ball a lot better,” White admitted. “That’s something I didn’t really do much as UCCS, so that’s going to be a big adjustment. Then I need to work on being a more consistent shooter and making smarter decisions with the ball.”
His ball-handling, he said, has become a specific area of concern he would like to address over the next 13 months.
“I think I can tighten up my handle a little bit—it’s always good to have a good handle, so I can have that tighter and it would be beneficial,” White said.
But until then, White plans to be a leader for the team from behind the scenes.
“I’m going to try to help them in any way I can, and if that means I have to get on someone in practice or whatever it takes,” he said. “I’m still part of the team and whatever they do on the court reflects me as well, so I’m just going to try to play well in practice and try to help them in whatever way I can.”