We don't know how good Royce White is. We know that he was a well-regarded high school player, the No. 35 overall player in the class of 2009 to be exact. But because White self-destructed so fabulously at Minnesota -- a stretch that included his famous YouTube "retirement," not to mention a pair of run-ins with the law that eventually forced Tubby Smith to cut the cord before White ever set foot on the court -- we really have no clue what White's game will look like on the college level.
At least one Iowa State fan believes he knows. Des Moines Register columnist Marc Hansen spoke with a "longtime Cyclones fan" who watched White average a triple-double in the YMCA Capital City League -- a Des Moines-area summer league -- and believes the Iowa State newcomer will be the best player in school history. Yes, you read that correctly: The best player in school history.
OK, Mr. (or Mrs.) Anonymous Cyclones Fan. State thy case:
It was reassuring to hear the breakfast clubber agree that summer competition isn’t such a great barometer for what’s to come when the snow comes, and that the kid probably won’t average a triple-double when the points count. But he refused to back down. White, the man said, is a mountain of muscle with the ball-handling and shooting skills of a little man. He’s made of granite. His hands are the size of manhole covers. When he gets the ball down low, the poor guy guarding him will need a crowbar to pry it loose. The best.
Mr. (or Mrs.) Anonymous Cyclones Fan's appraisal isn't really the point of Hansen's column, of course. The point is that White has been playing incredibly well this summer, doing the kinds of things that rightly make otherwise rational fans cast aside the "yeah, but it's just summer league" argument for something more openly optimistic. Can you blame them? Iowa State has had a hard road since Larry Eustachy was photographed pretending to be young and carefree, and coach Fred Hoiberg's second year at the school represents the biggest talent infusion the folks in Ames have seen in, what, a decade? Of course they're excited.
But there might be something here, too. For one, averaging a triple-double is insane, no matter how you slice it. Two, judging by his quotes in the Register, White seems light years more mature than he ever did at Minnesota. To wit:
Ask him about [the summer league numbers] and White shrugs. “It’s a lot of one-and-one basketball without much team defense,” he said before practice last week. [...]
“I’m happy somebody would think of me in that way,” he said, “and it gives me motivation to try to achieve that on the court and off. It’s an objective term and probably a little extreme, considering all the great players who’ve been here, but I’d like to be on the list someday. I think it’s achievable. Not for what I do individually as much as for what we do as a team. Hopefully, I can make a dent in Iowa State history that way.”
Royce is right: There have been some really good players in Iowa State history. Meanwhile, he's yet to suit up for his first college game. Deep breaths, you know?
But whatever happens this winter -- and let's go ahead and bet that it won't be a barrage of triple-doubles -- this news already represents a huge turnaround from where White was just two seasons ago. The on-court stuff is great, but the off-court stuff is even better. Iowa State fans are jacked. And why not?
(Hat tip: CBS)