PJS Note: This sent in from a reader who watched Royce White and his Hopkins teammates take on Osseo over the weekend in high school tournament play.
I have to say that I haven’t spent a lot of time watching Hopkins and Royce White play this year and I am by no means an expert on Minnesota High School basketball but my first impression of Royce White is leaving a bit to be desired.
With White being a top 25 recruit, I tuned in tonight expecting to see a player who would be able to have his way with the Osseo Orioles. In the first few minutes, he took a baseline pass and rose up for an impressive quick dunk, but as the first half ticked away, I was still waiting to see him assert himself. Setting aside the dunk and a few rebound put backs aside, the first half was filled with poor shot selection and bad misses and did not live up to my expectations for a supposed future superstar of the Big Ten. As a die-hard Gophers hoops fan, my thoughts are that not only is he not a difference maker in leading us to a 2010 Big Ten title next season but he’s probably not even a starter as a Freshman. Damian Johnson and Paul Carter are both highly similar players who at this point are more experienced and polished. White may be a talent, but come October, there is no way he surpasses either of these two on the depth chart.
As the second half got underway, I started to see a few layups and was most excited to see him step back and hit one from beyond the arc. He stayed in for close to the first 12 minutes, was fouled a few times, had another impressive dunk in the lane, but overall still seemed content to let the game come to him. As my only real interest in the game, I watched White almost at all times and he doesn’t really seem to move much without the ball. This may be a product of playing on a 30-0 team where most drives by teammates result in layups, but the Gopher offense this year struggled to get open in the half court and seemed to lack movement away from the ball. Royce really doesn’t seem to bring us to another level in this department. Another weakness of the current Gopher team is a lack of players who can create their own offense. If White can’t create his own shots vs. Osseo, it is hard to imagine that he will be doing so against Michigan State. My problem in watching his game is that he seems to be an athletic kid with good skills, but is prone to standing around and watching far too often. It reminds me somewhat of Ralph Sampson during the first half of the non-conference schedule before he started adjusting to the Division I pace, only White was playing in the biggest game of his life and didn’t seem to be enthused about it in the least.
After a rest close to the eight minute mark, Royce checked back into the game around 6:30 and about 4:30 I finally saw a glimpse of the raw talent I’ve heard so much about when he took a pass on the wing and made a strong drive and one handed finish to give Hopkins a 60-53 lead. He then made another strong drive from the top of the key and finished with another lay up to make it 62-55 after an Osseo jump shot. This put Royce at 20 points and 7 rebounds for the night, which would be his final line earning him player of the game honors.
As Hopkins shot fouls a few minutes later to clinch the win, my impression had not wavered much. Before the game, without much information, I had viewed White as a sure fire bet to make the starting lineup next year and be a large part of moving the Gophers into the upper echelon in the Big Ten. I think it’s clear that his position is Small Forward for Minnesota and right away I don’t see his game bringing a whole lot more to the table than added depth. He is a similar player to Damian Johnson or Paul Carter, meaning that he has good size and versatility but would never be mistaken for a great shooter or slasher on the offensive end. He is not near the defender or shot blocker that Johnson is and lacks Carter’s tenacity. Although he handles the ball well for a 6-7 high school kid, I don’t think he does this well enough to consider him at the 2 with Westbrook, Joseph, Cobbs, Nolen, Hoffarber, and possibly Allen already penciled into the backcourt next year. The other option would be at the Power Forward position which is where many have him projected down the road. He will certainly get some time here, but it would seem that he lacks the size of Sampson or Iverson and Trevor Mbakwe joins the team next year as a potential force on the boards making minutes at the 4 look sparse.
Royce White certainly has talent but Gophers fans should strongly temper their hopes of this kid as the cog that will propel us to elite status in 2010. As I admitted at the outset, I haven’t been watching him play game-in and game-out all season and might be a bit of a pessimist, but most of the night I was thinking about how great Osseo Star, Sam Dower would look in Maroon and Gold next season.