No Division I or II schools were willing to give Derrick White a full scholarship coming out of high school. Johnson & Wales in Denver, an NAIA school best known for its culinary arts program, wanted White to play.
So it’s no surprise the San Antonio Spurs did their scouting and research and took White with the 29th pick – second-to-last in the first round – of the 2017 NBA draft.
And it’s no surprise White is a major reason why the Spurs have a 2-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.
Meet White, the breakout star of the 2019 NBA playoffs.
In San Antonio’s 118-108 victory against Denver in Game 3 on Thursday, White had a career-high 36 points on 15-for-21 shooting, five assists, five rebounds, three steals and one block, and he limited Jamal Murray’s offensive production. White made 12 of his 14 shots near the rim.
“Derrick White came out like he hadn’t eaten in two days,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “He came out hungry, he came out pissed off and he sent a very loud and clear message. … That was a hell of a performance from a young player.”
Malone added: “We couldn’t stop him. I mean, they had 62 points in the paint. We gave up 16 blow-by, 1-on-1 containment, not game-planning or anything. It was just the ability to guard one-on-one, or the lack thereof. He was impressive. From jump street, he attacked, he got wherever he wanted, and he finished. He was into us defensively.”
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 19, 2019
White, 24, is in his second NBA season, playing just 17 games as a rookie in 2017-18 with 24 games in the G League. But an injury to Dejounte Murray prompted Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to give the 6-4 White a shot at the point guard position.
He averaged 9.9 points, 3.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds and one steal and shot 47.9% from the field during the regular season. In three playoff games, he has scored 16, 17 and 36 points. White’s 3-point shot is a work in progress, but he has the ability to break down his defender and get to the rim. He’s shooting 69% from the field, including 76.9% at the rim this postseason, according to nba.com/stats.
“I just have a chip on my shoulder,” White told reporters. “This is the way I would play since I was young. I am just trying to get out there and compete and have fun.”
This is what the Spurs do. The front-office staff, led by Popovich (president and coach) and general manager R.C. Buford, often find these kinds of players late in the draft. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Cory Joseph and Murray were all either late first round or second-round picks.
It speaks volumes to the Spurs’ scouting and player development operations. After identifying prospects, the Spurs believe they can turn them into productive pro players after they draft them.
Popovich claims he didn’t know who White was when the Spurs drafted him.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jeff Zillgitt