In a nine-month NBA season, players spend half their time in the air getting to the next city. For Iowa State forward Royce White, a projected to be a first-round pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, that is a scary proposition — for him and prospective teams.
A sure-fire first round talent, White could drop but there have been concerns he could fall all the way into the second round in part over — of all things — a fear of flying.
The fear of flying is part of a larger anxiety disorder for White, who has also admitted to struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder and uses medication to control both. That concerns NBA evaluators in light of former NBA draft picks like Eddie Griffin, the No. 7 overall pick in 2001 who battled depression before tragically dying at the age of 25 after his car crashed into a train in 2007 while he was under the influence of alcohol.
“It’s going to be something that a team taking him on is going to have to have something in place, whether it’s a staff member or a plan in place to help him accommodate some of his fears with the travel aspect because that’s such a huge part of an NBA season.”A second GM told NBA.com that White’s situation is similar to a player who has off-the-court problems — presumably meaning run-ins with the law or substance abuse — in regards to how it may affect his stock. White has rightfully taken offense to comparisons like that for something that he can’t control and afflicts millions of Americans.
“It’s like cancer or heart disease. Are those character issues, too?” said to the Akron Beacon Journal. “I don’t like when that association is made. There’s a lot of people out there who have an anxiety disorder and don’t talk about it for that reason. People think it’s a character issue and it’s not.
“I’m going to continue to be me, I’m going to continue to be an advocate for the mental illness community. I’ll continue to talk about it and be forthcoming about it. When a person or public figure talks about it, it lets people know that haven’t been diagnosed to go and get checked. You’re not alone.”
The difference between being selected in the first round and second round is significant. Though White is rumored to have a guarantee that he won’t fall below the Boston Celtics, who have picks 21 and 22, a dip into the second round could mean dropping from a four-year deal guaranteed at around $6 million in total, or a non-guaranteed two-year deal with a starting salary of about a third of the probable $1.2 million White would make in his first year if he were selected by Boston.
He burst onto the scene this past March when he put forth big performances against Connecticut and eventual champion Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. As a result, the 6-foot-8 forward vaulted into the consciousness of NBA talent evaluators and was thought by some to be a lottery pick after declaring early for the draft as a sophomore.
To be fair, scouts are also worried about erratic behavior in White’s past. He pleaded guilty to shoplifting and was also accused of stealing a laptop computer when he was a freshman at Minnesota during the 2009-10 season before quitting the team over YouTube.
But from all indications, those issues are now in the past as White led the Cyclones in five statistical categories last season and was a First Team All-Big 12 performer while displaying a charming personality.