Royce White came into the NBA with a lot of baggage. He was a star in his home state of Minnesota, twice winning Mr. Basketball and becoming a key player for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. But disciplinary issues led to his dismissal from the team, and his struggle with anxiety disorder impacted his basketball career. He transferred to Iowa State University, regained his form, and was a first-round pick in the NBA draft this year by the Houston Rockets.
But he has yet to suit up for a game this year, and was demoted to the Developmental League earlier this season. He’s gone on Twitter rants, claiming the team is not doing enough to help with his mental health issues – namely, his anxiety makes flying in airplanes an issue. He has since left the team, and the Rockets are threatening to fine him for each day he is does not report.
White spoke to ESPN Friday, saying he is prepared to retire from the NBA if the issues aren’t resolved. He claims the team has been “inconsistent” in their treatment of his well-publicized mental health issues.
In a way, both sides are at fault here. White is an incredibly interesting, introspective guy. He has struggled with anxiety disorder, but goes out of his way to be open about his experience, most likely because talking about his problems is therapeutic. But there are other problems – immaturity, for one, and a lack of awareness of how his words and actions can affect his professional standing. There’s no doubt he is talented, but there’s a reason he was the no. 16 pick in the draft, and not in the top-5. He was a burgeoning star at Minnesota, but an arrest for theft and disorderly conduct prevented him from starring for his hometown team. At Iowa State, he drove his car to NCAA tournament games rather than flying.
White says he will meet with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey on Monday in hopes of working out their issues. The Rockets are a dangerous team already with the addition of James Harden, and with White’s skills, they could contend for a playoff spot. We’ve seen guys overcome mental health issues and contribute before – Metta World Peace is a prime example. But White is starting his NBA career off on the wrong foot. Here’s hoping he gets on the right one soon.