Royce White Talks Mental Health, Anthony Davis

Here’s an interesting excerpt from an upcoming episode of Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel about Houston Rockets forward Royce White in which he talks about his mental health and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis. The episode airs on HBO Jan. 22.

Royce White, the 16th overall pick in last summer’s NBA draft, has yet to play for the Houston Rockets.

The 6-foot-8 power forward’s absence isn’t due to lackluster performance or injury, but an anxiety disorder that, among other things, makes air travel extremely difficult for him, something no NBA franchise has had to face before with such a high-profile individual.

Determined to ensure that the club, league and players association accommodate his needs, the Minnesota native refused to report to the team last fall until a “mental health protocol” was prepared and signed by all parties.

The situation reached a tipping point Jan. 6 when White was suspended for failing to perform his contract.

In this REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated collaboration, correspondent Bernard Goldberg travels to Houston to talk to White .

White starred at Iowa State where in the 2011-12 season he was the only Division I player to lead his team in points, blocked shots, assists, rebounds and steals.  White details the depth of his anxiety disorder, how he copes with it and what he feels needs to be done to ensure he is provided a safe work environment.

Excerpts:

ROYCE WHITE: “Mental health is a documented disability by federal law. It’s not brand new.  It’s new to talk about.  It’s new to admit.  It’s not new.”

 

HBO V/O: There’s a good chance you’ve never heard an athlete certainly not one who’s just 21 years old talk the way Royce White talks.  He’s either courageous or insufferable depending on where you’re standing.  Which may explain why on the night of the NBA draft last year, despite his immense talent, it seemed no one wanted him. 

 

HBO V/O: Kevin McHale, the head coach of the Rockets, was Royce White’s best chance.  After all, what team would want to risk a first-round draft pick on a kid like White with all his problems? 

 

HBO V/O: On the court, White has no anxiety problems it’s one of the few places he’s comfortable. And last year, he was the only player in the entire country to lead his team in all five major categories – scoring, rebounding, assists, blocked shots and steals.

 

In the 2012 NCAA tournament, White and Iowa State faced Kentucky, the best team in the country, led by Anthony Davis, who would become the number one pick in the NBA Draft.

 

BERNARD GOLDBERG: Can I show you something from March Madness?

ROYCE WHITE: For sure.

BERNARD GOLDBERG: You know how to hit play? Hit play.

 

SOT ANNC: He steals the ball. And here he comes again.

 

BERNARD GOLDBERG :  What did you say there? (White shouting at Kentucky)

ROYCE WHITE: I’m the best player in the country.

BERNARD GOLDBERG: Did you think that at the time?

ROYCE WHITE: I knew that at the time.

BERNARD GOLDBERG: You dunked over Anthony Davis who was the number one pick.

ROYCE WHITE: I abused him all game.  I didn’t just dunk over him.  I just abused their whole team all game.

 

 

HBO V/O: White says he doesn’t want the coach or the GM – two people who aren’t psychiatrists – to make decisions about whether he’s well enough, on any given night, to play.  And he says if the Rockets would just give him that medical point person — a doctor to whom the team would defer on mental health issues  –he’d feel safe and probably wouldn’t miss a single game all season.

 

MICHAEL MCCANN: I think that opens the door for the team to lose control over its most important quality, which is the ability to play players in a way that makes sense for the team.

 

Michael McCann teaches law at the University of New Hampshire and is one of the nation’s top scholars in matters involving sports and the law.

 

MICHAEL MCCANN: White is the first athlete to test a league and a team as to how flexible they can be with his mental health condition. White is a pioneer in that regard.  The Rockets could say, look, we could have this neutral physician as part of the conversation, having influence, having input, that might be reasonable. Having this person be the final decision-maker or the only decision-maker, not reasonable.

 

HBO V/O: It’s not officially over yet between the Rockets and Royce White.  There’s some behind the scenes talking still going on.  The Rockets, who wouldn’t talk to us for this story, say they want him on the team and White says he wants to play –- but only if the two sides can come to an agreement.

 

And what if they can’t?  Is White really prepared to give up the dream he’s had ever since he was a little kid – a dream shared by so many who don’t have anywhere near the talent that Royce White does.

 

BERNARD GOLDBERG: There are people watching us right now who would just kill to be in the NBA.  They’d kill to have an opportunity that you have.  But you’ve said, “But who would kill themselves to be there?”  How is playing in the NBA like killing yourself?

 

 

ROYCE WHITE: If I was to play in the NBA now as it is without the protocols, without the safety measures, I would be risking my health.  I would be risking my life.  What comes along with mental health that goes untreated?  Alcohol abuse. Marijuana abuse. Suicidal behavior. Homicidal behavior. Those are things I’m not willing to risk to play basketball, to have money, to have fame.

 

 

BERNARD GOLDBERG: End of discussion.

 

 

ROYCE WHITE: That’s it.

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27 comments
nickballs
nickballs

hope this isnt a sign of things to come....just a one off , random injury.

BDarc23
BDarc23

Injuries are going to happen all year...same as every year for every team.  There is a lot of luck involved as some years teams just seem to get hit harder.

Hanknaples
Hanknaples

Brian Bassett:

".......the fact that he (Pryor) is essentially denying that he has a concussion is a little concerning." 

Know what Brian? The fact that you are so honest and objective in your reporting is what separates you from MOST reporting on this sport and what keeps me glued to your Blog.

Again, Thank You !!!

jets4life
jets4life

I don't see why they have him in as the punt protector on special teams anyway. He is your first round pick and a day one starter on defense.  He delivers the hits usually doesn't block very much.  Take him off special teams and just have him play defense.  Its only one concussion so its not that concerning but could have been avoided. 

Lloyd Jay Reife
Lloyd Jay Reife

The NFL now has its antenna up re: concussions, so they might give him even more rest than needed hoping it's minor.

I still hope he's our Ronnie Lott.

D'Apostraphe Lewis
D'Apostraphe Lewis

So what's the bottom line -- he'll miss a few practices? I suppose the real concern is that it becomes a recurring issue.


Did he have any concussions in college?

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples This is something a lot of players do. They think they're fine or don't agree that they're concussed. It's why the league had to get more strict about this stuff so guys were no longer allowed to examine themselves and wander back out onto the field with their bell rung. 

Brendan
Brendan

@jets4life Well for starters he wasn't hurt as the punt protector, he was hurt on kickoff return. 


And second, top-level starters play STs all over the league. You can't simply throw random bozos on the field for STs and expect an elite unit. Go look at Seattle or NE and tell me that they don't have some of their best players on those units. 


The Jets need to put talented players on the field for STs if they want to stop being a sub-par STs unit. 

Hanknaples
Hanknaples

@Brendan 

I you eagerness to support this guy  you have failed to see two things:

1) He was taken off the field and examined for a specific medical (head trauma) concern and he, and every one, knew it !!

2)This type of injury is frightening to everyone specially the player and I'm sure he was told immediately that he was being EVALUATED for a concussion and he, AT LEAST, KNEW it was serious!!!

jets4life
jets4life

@Brendan @jets4life Yes top level starters to play st's but he is a rookie and I don't think that he needed to be in there.  Also I think the Jets drafted and put an emphasis on making the st's better this offseason. The personal is much better this year.   Look what happened to gronk on st's, I think putting some good players in there is one thing but players that are supposed to be starters and one day very important players is something else. Just wonder, did he ever play st in college?

Hanknaples
Hanknaples

@Brendan @jets4life 

Can't believe I'm saying this but, you are absolutely correct ...and top level starters DO play ST all over the league , as well they should!!

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples I'm not exactly defending him, I'm supporting the stringent rules regarding concussions because Pryor, like many players before him (and likely many players after him), thinks he's a super human, that he "feels fine" and if that's the case there can't be anything wrong with them. Pryor is just one of dozens (probably hundreds) of guys who are wired this way that have passed through an NFL locker room. 


As someone who has had multiple concussions, I can tell you that they're not always frightening. You can have a concussion where you don't lose consciousness, don't have blurry vision or headaches, you feel perfectly fine, but you're concussed nonetheless. If I had to guess, that's the type that Pryor suffered, which is why he was ready to come right back. It's a good sign that the team held him out despite that, it shows they're not going to let a player dictate their health. 

Brendan
Brendan

@jets4life So you agree that talent is necessary on STs, but not him? Why not? He's a missile on the field and if his speed is an asset while he works in with a 3-man rotation at safety, why not maximize his time on the field via specials? Until he's a bonafide every-down safety (which in reality will probably take a little time), the team looking for other ways for him to help out the cause is a good thing. 


In college he played specials and was a standout in that regard. Most of his scouting reports noted that he was constantly making the tackle on coverage units. 

Hanknaples
Hanknaples

@Brendan 

" You can have a concussion where you don't lose consciousness, don't have blurry vision or headaches, you feel perfectly fine"

Brendan, Brendan, Brendan.....If you felt perfectly fine (and as you say,) with no signs of injury, then why in hell would you be taken off the field to be medically examined ??


You're doing it again Brendan !!

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples 


"If you felt perfectly fine (and as you say,) with no signs of injury, then why in hell would you be taken off the field to be medically examined ??"


Because, as I stated, you can still be concussed. This is, quite literally, one of the pillars of the concussion issue the NFL is facing. There have been countless instances where guys took a hit, were concussed, showed little-to-no sign of it in a quick sideline test and were put back into a game to get further brain injury. The team is being cautious, and with all that we now know about concussions, you 100% play it safe with a player's health. 

Hanknaples
Hanknaples

@Brendan 

Regardless of how the player feels thjat fact is the league has a protocol of a 

"six-item checklist outlining findings that necessitate a player's immediate removal from the game"

Pryor HAD to exhibit something to be removed from the game or EVERY player would be removed during the game !!!

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples "Pryor HAD to exhibit something to be removed from the game or EVERY player would be removed during the game !!! "


....which he did? They didn't just randomly select people to get tested, he got up slow on the play so the trainers went to check him out. They quickly diagnosed that he got dinged and went through that protocol. Not sure what you're arguing, I think you're agreeing with me without realizing it. 

Hanknaples
Hanknaples

@Brendan 

"Not sure what you're arguing,...."

I'm NOT arguing with you....in fact you are the one who seemed to find some inaccuracy in my comment to Bassett!!

But, like Bassett said and I agree with him,  this kid KNEW he had a possible concussion right on the field and it could've been serious, which he did have and he denied it !!!!!!

 

Brendan
Brendan

@Hanknaples Who cares? The team didn't deny it and they accurately diagnosed him.