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Klee: Buffs coach on ex-UCCS star Derrick White: 'He'll be a pro'

By: Paul Klee
October 21, 2015 Updated: October 22, 2015 at 6:41 am
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UCCS guard Derrick White makes an alley-oop dunk over Colorado School of Mines center Trevor Wages as UCCS make a 15-2 comeback in the last five minutes of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout semifinals to beat the Colorado School of Mines 75-70 at Metropolitan State University of Denver Friday, March 7, 2014. White led the team with 21 points. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

BOULDER — This college campus has the unique ability to make a gloomy, drizzly afternoon still seem beautiful. Mountains do that. The red-roof buildings do that. And the University of Colorado was that way Wednesday as Derrick White left the Coors Events Center for the house he shares with Josh Scott.

White is still a Business Management major. That hasn't changed. He's still got that hair, all that hair, that seems to grow another layer in wet weather. That hasn't changed.

And he's still ballin'. That definitely hasn't changed. For those who wondered if White could make the leap from a Division II program at UCCS to the Pac-12 at CU, I posed this question to coach Tad Boyle: Is Derrick White your best player?

"Without Josh Scott," Boyle said. "Yes."

It won't be until a year from now, but Derrick White is coming. He must sit out the 2015-16 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules after he left UCCS for CU.

Then it's on, Pac-12 style.

The Buffs are only 12 practices in, so this is going to sound like one of those summer practice reports that suggest everyone is bigger, faster, stronger. Colorado Springs knows better. The hoopheads who checked out the Mountain Lions on their run to the NCAA Tournament know what kind of player the Buffs are getting, and, while White is only practicing, the Buffs are getting educated, too.

One practice observer marveled over a drive to the basket in which White contorted his 6-foot-5 body to score an improbable bucket over Pac-12 veteran Wesley Gordon. Another observer, who had never heard of Derrick White before he arrived on campus, said there's no doubt White would be a starter for CU if he were available this season.

And Boyle? Well, he's just giddy over the wired-to-score shooting guard who fell in his lap.

"I don't want to get too excited because we don't get him until a year from now," Boyle said, and then he got excited. "He's got the strength. He's got the speed. He's got the skill. He's got the feel. He's going to be a heckuva player for us.

"I wish — God I wish — we had him this year. I'll be saying that a lot to myself — not necessarily to you guys. ... You guys are really, really going to enjoy watching him play next year. I'm sick to my stomach we don't have him for two seasons."

White will have one year of eligibility at CU, and wouldn't it be nice to pair him with Scott, the Lewis-Palmer grad, and Gordon, the Sierra grad, for a 1-2-3 punch that could remind folks, hey, Colorado Springs can play a little, too?

No matter. That's like wondering what could've been if Spencer Dinwiddie, Alec Burks and Andre Roberson ignored the NBA and played on the same team at CU.

This will be a tough read for UCCS, because UCCS and coach Jeff Culver were the savvy ones who identified and helped develop White into the player he is now — and then lost him to big brother up the road. It stings. That's understandable.

"How many Division I schools are here in this Rocky Mountain region?" Boyle said. "Air Force, Northern Colorado, Denver, Colorado, Colorado State, Wyoming - not one of us considered him. Now? Whoa."

When White asked for and received his release from UCCS, Boyle and assistant Rodney Billups did the only sane thing: They lured him to Boulder. From Scott to Gordon to White, CU should thank its lucky stars for Colorado Springs basketball.

Oh, White is still skinny. He's up from 180 to 195, but he's still skinny. His slight build will be a knock against him until Pac-12 people actually watch him play.

"I've been doubted my whole life. I'm sure more people are doubting me now, wondering if I can play at this level of basketball," White said. "I hear it. I know it's there. I'm taking it as a challenge, to adjust to this level of play."

But his story — "A neat story," as Boyle said — should be pasted across the locker rooms from Air Academy to Rampart. Out of Legend High School, White had one full-ride scholarship offer. "From a junior college," he said. He was offered a partial scholarship at UCCS, where they set program records and ate his mom's Rice Krispie treats together.

Now he's in the conversation as the best player for a Pac-12 program. How, man?

"I worked harder than I ever had going from senior year of high school to my freshman year of college. Once I dedicated myself to the game, I got better and better," White said. "I love basketball. I love playing. There's people out there dreaming they could be in this position. I don't take it for granted. I take advantage of every opportunity I've been given."

Go ahead, take a highlighter to that quote. Or the next one.

"He'll be a pro. There's no question he's a professional basketball player when he leaves here," Boyle told me. "Now what level? That's yet to be determined."

Derrick White is coming. He's bringing the RMAC to the Pac-12, and here's a hunch it will be worth the year's wait.

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Twitter: @bypaulklee

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