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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hope for a very human talent

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

After months of tense, Twitter-fueled confrontation, former ISU star Royce White may soon get back to business - basketball business.

It was announced on Saturday that White and the Houston Rockets had reached an agreement that puts the player on track to join the team's D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, on February 11.

After being picked 16th in the NBA draft, White hasn't played at all while he and the Rockets have tried to work out a suitable arrangement for White to play and manage his mental illness, including generalized anxiety disorder. In addition, he struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

White is a supremely talented, achingly human face of mental illness. After a short tenure at University of Minnesota, which involved arrests and drama, but no basketball, the Mayor, ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, decided to take a chance on what many other big-time coaches thought was damaged goods. After years in the NBA, Hoiberg has a unique gift for dealing with "difficult" players. He has created a winning program on a strategy of a fast fix with junior college transfers and players who washed out of other D1 schools. His "Bad News Bears" have found redemption with a little dose of Hilton Magic.

His time in Ames may go down as the most positive, supportive and successful of White's career. He loved ISU and ISU (and its fans) loved him. There was hope that the dark days were over for White. He bypassed his final two years of eligibility for the financial security a first round draft pick provided.

That payday has come with a price.

It's been a rough road in Houston. The star didn't feel the NBA team supported him and worked with his illness. He wanted to continue to be treated by his own doctors. The team, he said, wanted different professionals to work with him. The trust he felt in Ames wasn't there in Houston. He has yet to suit up for the team.

White is a young man with a very big platform. He has been idolized and vilified for the openness with which he discusses his disease.

As mental illness, and the lack of funding to treat those in need, has been in the headlines, White is an interesting case study. Houston fans have shown, by and large, little patience for a player with a million dollar payday. White has been a social media master, tweeting his frustration. Houston management has been, by and large, silent.

I'm so pleased an agreement is in place which seems to make both the team and White happy. Accommodations for his health have been approved. The league has signed off.

Mental health care in this country is woefully lacking, and those suffering from mental illness are often misunderstood or misidentified. Watching a young man face his issues publicly, working to ensure his health, while doing his job, is a great example for those who suffer in silence.

If positive progress can be made in this very public case, it gives hope to those in the shadows.

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By Paula Buenger