Royce White is back, and the Houston Rockets hope he will prove to be worth the first round pick they used on him last year.
White, the number 16 pick in the 2012 draft from Iowa State University, is back after over two months away from the team. The reason White was not with the team was not as simple as an injury or an illness, at least one people might think. White suffers from an anxiety disorder and one of the effects of his disorder is a fear of flying. The St. Ambrose Director of the Counseling Center, Stephen Tendall, describes what White may be feeling.
“I’ve seen people before in planes who you can tell are a little anxious, but if you were really anxious to a point where you couldn’t get on, then that would be a tough one because you are basically flying in a fuel tank,” Tendall said.
This fear led to White having a major dispute with the Rockets organization during his hiatus from the team. White explained his fears to the Rockets organization, but they wanted him to try to fly anyway. This led to arguments on both sides and White was suspended without pay on Jan. 6 for refusing an assignment to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets Developmental League team.
White was vocal on Twitter about respect for himself as well as others with mental illnesses. As a result, he received both positive and negative tweets from others on Twitter. No matter if the message was praising him or demeaning him, his response would almost always end with the hashtag #BeWell. This attitude has given him a group of admirers who deal with similar anxiety issues.
Eventually, White and the Rockets developed an understanding of each side and worked out a way for White to get back on the court. He now travels by bus to his games for the Vipers.
White is not the first athlete to admit to having an anxiety disorder. 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, now a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has Social Anxiety Disorder and also took time off from baseball before returning to a Cy Young level for the Royals. The Rockets can only hope that White can achieve close to this level of success.
The reason the Rockets gambled on White is understandable. White, built like a forward, can do it all. He led the Cyclones in most major statistical categories en route to an NCAA tournament berth last season. He was a highly touted prospect projected by many to be a top-10 pick entering the NBA draft last year. His well-publicized disorder and its effects scared some teams off, however Tendall thinks White is on the road to recovery.
“He is getting some help right now and I’m sure they’re working diligently and taking small steps to get him to a point where he can be flying,” Tendall said.
Royce White is working to get back on the court for the Rockets. Only time will tell whether the number 16 pick in last year’s draft is a bust or a steal.