Sometimes there are guys who just seem destined to become old souls before their time.
Kevin Garnett was one of those guys. After the Marbury thing blew up, KG stopped being The Kid and became more of a survivor. Oh sure, the intensity was still there. But he was less a Tony Stark and became more a Nick Fury. Marbury's departure shocked the carefree energy our of KG, and turned it into a brooding, burning focus.
And now there's Royce White. No, he's not a Timberwolf (though through no lack of trying on his part) But he is a Minnesotan, with a long and messy history here, that's turning out to be just a preface for what's turning into a very storied life...one that burned the childhood out of him along ago.
It's no secret anymore that White suffers from anxiety attacks, most often triggered by flying. Part of the reason he started at the UofM was because it wouldn't require him to fly to get to and from home. And after that fell apart, the disorder cost him a spot with Coach Cal's Wildcats.
I'm sure most of you also know by now about White's latest battle...his absence from the Rockets' training camp as they work with him to try and ease the effects of his anxiety and shield the rest of the team from its breakdowns. That's a tough situation to be in. To their credit, the Rockets have handled it like champs, and White has been clear that they aren't at fault for this, and that the 'standoff' is about preventing problems in the future, not fixing ones being caused now.
It's also a tough situation to be as a fellow Minnesotan. White isn't an unlikable person....quite the opposite actually....but he's done some very unlikable things. It was hard to handle his fallout and departure from the U. Tubby Smith worked hard to put that team together, and it was going to be pretty special. The skilled power game of White alongside the skilled finesse game of Ralph Sampson, the high-energy games of Trever Mbwake and Rodney Williams, and the sharpshooting of Blake Hoffarbar...that's a Sweet 16 team there. Instead, White stupidly got himself in hot water, resulting in a suspension and eventual 'resignation' from the team, and well....NIT Tourney, here we come.
It'll be interesting to see the reaction when/if he shows up at the Target Center. Guys like Joel Pryzbilla and Kris Humphires have gotten booed for doing a lot less.
But at the same time, White is a guy I can't help but pull for. Not just because he has a debilitating stress disorder, but because he's also man enough to admit it and own up to it and all the other faults he has. He doesn't particularly care about living the life of the rich and famous (considering his disorder, he'd probably quite prefer it the opposite) When he was kept off the Gophers, he didn't go around partying or trashing the team in the press. He earned a 3.0 GPA and learned to play the piano and write music. He speaks softly, but honestly, and he asks for what he wants. He doesn't hide for his problems. He doesn't hide from himself.
When asked about why he wasn't at camp and the nature of his anxiety attacks, White simply put it out there. "Here's how it goes. I'm scared going to the airport, I'm scared going up, I'm uncomfortable in the air, and I feel like a million bucks when we it the runway." He also added on Twitter, "Anxiety isn't keeping me from camp. Taking a proactive approach to my mental illness instead of a reactive one is."
The Rockets knew what they were getting into when the drafted White. Any team that didn't know and drafted him would be damn fools. Asking to travel by bus when the rest of the team goes by plane is kind of an unprecedented thing. But White has said, "There is nothing but very positive strides being taken right now between I and the Houston Rockets to support health. This innovative plan is being well thought out by both parties, when it's done I think an executable plan will be there...A Healthy plan."
I see White simply as a kid trying to beat the odds. A kid who's no longer a kid because he's had to deal with scary adult things for most of his life. I think White wants to make good on his life. Apparently so do the Rockets. Here's hoping his story has a happy ending.