For the first time in 60 years, the University of Colorado men’s basketball team will host the Brigham Young Cougars at the Coors Events Center on Saturday. But, more importantly, it will also help reunite two long-time friends; CU’s Derrick White and BYU’s Cory Calvert.
“(Cory’s) a great kid,” White said. “He’s a great friend. He’s always going to be there for you. He came back from that mission and he said he loved it, and he’s still the same Cory. He’s just been a great friend for me for the past few years.”
Growing up, Calvert seemed to always attract more attention on the court than White. But that didn’t deter the two guards, whose friendship blossomed from the moment they met each other.
When Calvert was a toddler, he and his family moved from Colorado to Utah, but when he reached sixth grade, his family ventured back to the homeland. That’s when he met White.
“He moved to Colorado in sixth grade, and I first met him at Gold Crown tryouts at Ponderosa High School,” White said. “Nobody knew who he was, but he was just like shooting all these threes and killing everybody, so I was like, ‘Who is this kid?’ We eventually went to middle school together and just grew our friendship from there.”
The year after, the two boys met up with former Denver University assistant coach Marcus Mason, who ran a basketball camp at the Parker Fieldhouse in Parker, Colorado.
From there on out, they competed in Mason’s Nothing But Net Elite Basketball camp, and he helped them begin the long road to their hoops success.
“We started with core fundamentals; I mean that’s what I believe in,” Mason said. “Both guys are really really good shooters, and that was our first focus, just the ability to make shots and make shots with range. Next, the ball-handling, creating an environment that’s tough for them, so physical practices, high-intensity practices, practices that involve a lot of detail to challenge them mentally.”
Calvert particularly saw his game take off after he started working out with Mason and the rest of the NBN coaches, and he believes that they morphed him into the player he is today.
“It was kind night and day. I like to think I was a decent player before I met Marcus but he really fine-tuned all of my skills. My shot was more consistent when I started working with him. He helped me to finish my form and getting my elbow in,” Calvert said. “Everything that I did was taught to me by Marcus.”
As the boys carried their game to the high school level, they took their talents separate ways. White attended Legend High School and Calvert attended Chaparral High School, but their friendship and love of competition lived on.
Every year, whenever the two schools duked it out on the court, White and Calvert were handed the opportunity to guard each other and really test out the other player’s talents.
For White, that was easier said than done.
“It was good,” he said. “It made me work on the defensive end, because if I took a possession off, that was an easy bucket for him. It was probably a big thing for my development, because he was better than me back then so I was always going in second being against him. It helped me develop.”
When White and Calvert got the chance to test each other’s abilities, the level of competition magnified on both ends.
“You know, it’s funny. With Derrick there’s always a little more motivation,” Calvert said. “He’s a really good player, and I always wanted to beat him. You know, he was my best friend. We played hard against each other, and after season we played pickup together and we’d be on the same team.”
More than anything, though, Calvert set the pace for everyone else around him whenever Mason’s players worked out together.
“I think at the time that they were coming out of high school, Cory was, in a sense, the man had more accolades playing on the best club team,” Mason said. “I think it made everyone’s game in Parker rise. It made Derrick’s game come up, it made Josh Adams’ game rise. I think all of the kids felt like in order to compete with him, they had to step up what they were doing.”
From the start, their friendship has succeeded both on and off the court.
“I think whenever you can create a competitive environment, it makes guys’ games rise and the consistent presence of a challenge makes everyone’s game rise,” Mason said. “Them being friends and them competing, I just think that environment breeded success for both those kids.”
“And that’s why I think both kids, if you look at their numbers, they—you know, we call them stat stuffers. They average a lot of points, a lot of assists, a lot of rebounds, steals and blocks. They’re complete players, so they’ve always been built to service a team in multiple ways. And that’s why Derrick can basically play the one through the four at this level of basketball.”
When the two carried their careers to the next level, White and Calvert made a point of keeping up with each other, even when Calvert took a two-year leave from BYU after his freshman year to do mission work for the Church of Latter-day Saints in Boston.
“Obviously I left after playing one year here at BYU and spent two years as a missionary…in Boston,” Calvert said. “It was a humbling experience and a great experience and I grew a lot.”
But now that Calvert is back in action for his sophomore year, White is keeping tabs on his long-time buddy.
“BYU is one of my favorite teams on the ESPN app and I go and check to see how he played and what he was doing,” White said. “So we still like to stay in contact and I hope he has a good year this year. I don’t really see him in the game, but I don’t think he’s playing too many minutes right now, so I’ll see how he’s doing. They’ve got a pretty good team so he’s just working hard and I think he’s going to be good.”
But because White just transferred from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, his NCAA-regulated year off will keep him from playing on Saturday. Calvert said he was disappointed he wouldn’t be able to duke it with him out again this year, for old time’s sake.
“Of course,” Calvert said. “I wish he was eligible to play this year, but we’ll both be playing again next year so I’ll be looking forward to that. It’ll just be good to see him and some of the other guys at Colorado that I grew up playing with. I’m looking forward to it.”
You can catch Calvert, White, and the rest of the two squads on Saturday at the Coors Events Center at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.