White, Rockets On Road To A Solution

Adjusting to life in the NBA is often difficult for rookies. In the case of Royce White of the Rockets, who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder, it seems the adjustment could be a long and bumpy road that involves plenty of bus rides.

The 16th pick in the 2012 draft, White did not report to the start of training camp with the Rockets in McAllen, Tex. and now says he is is making plans to travel by bus to many road game this season.

Speaking to ESPN.com, White said:

“What it’s going to look like is every game that’s drivable, I’m going to get a bus for myself,” White said. “And I’m going to make that bus feel like home so that there’s a level of consistency in a job where inconsistency is very apparent because of the schedule. I’m going to try and level that out and make sure that my stress levels stay low and that my rest is regular and that my meals are regular and that as much as I can, draw consistency from a very inconsistent schedule. …

“People with mental illness, one of the most important things is that they have that consistency and routine. The girth of (my request) was, ‘Can I travel by bus to close enough games?’ “

Though the 6-foot-8, 260 pound forward never missed a college game at Iowa State, his condition — particularly a fear of flying — caused many NBA clubs to shy away in the draft, allowing the Rockets to scoop him up with one of their three first-round draft picks. The team knew it was taking a calculated risk, but with three picks and the potential upside to White’s talent, figured it was a worthwhile one.

Experts in the field say it is possible for someone with White’s condition to place professional sports and even to thrive. But it could take time and a great deal of patience to develop a level of comfort.

White had previously flown to Las Vegas to take part in the NBA Summer League and attended the rookie orientation program. He worked out with teammates at the Toyota in Houston in September and even was a featured guest a team function for season ticket holders.

But when the rest of the Rockets arrived in McAllen for the opening of training camp on Tuesday, White was not on hand.

In addition to his comments to ESPN.com, White issued a statement through his agent that said:

“It causes me anxiety to know that serious consequences could happen if I do not express what I deal with, or if I am not truthful enough to ask for what I need, to be healthy. For me, hiding is no longer a healthy option in treating my anxiety or OCD, so I have asked for some help from the organization to ensure long-term health for myself.

“It has been determined that without a specific plan in place, the current workplace is not healthy for me. I feel that it is essential to formulate the right plan for a better chance of execution, despite other timelines or agendas. The most important agenda to me is a plan that is healthy. Therefore, a plan has been requested that will support a healthy work environment. In addition to this, it has been requested that the standard requirements for players in regards to this plan be voided because it is not a standard situation.

“It is regrettable that I cannot be currently present, but long term health obviously should be the most important thing. I will continue to champion the cause for mental illness being met with understanding; if not, the ramifications are dangerous.

“Mental illness is a very individual based disorder – very unique for each person. So for those who come forward and ask for help, a very unique support plan should be the solution, given the nature of mental illness.

“No blame is being placed on the Rockets organization.”

White later tweeted a message that indicated he it was not a sudden anxiety attack that prevented him from attending camp.

“Anxiety isn’t keeping me from the camp, taking a Proactive approach to my mental illness instead of reactive is.”

If the delay now is to work out a proactive plan, the question is why that wasn’t done over the summer?

If White’s intention is to travel by bus to road games, that could be problematic. Road games at San Antonio (three hours), Dallas (four hours), New Orleans (six hours), Oklahoma City (nine hours) and Memphis (nine hours) are the only ones within reasonable driving distance and that does not even factor in the vagaries of the NBA schedule, including back-to-back games. It is possible that White could bus between certain pairs of cities during road trips. But during the first month of the 2012-13 season, the Rockets will also travel to Detroit, Atlanta, Portland, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.

White told ESPN.com that he hopes to have a plan with the Rockets “in writing” and that the team has been “very understanding.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, White and the Rockets seemed to be working toward an agreement on traveling to away games, according to The Associated Press:

White said he has an agreement with the team to take a bus to select games. KRIV-TV reported that the agreement is pending league approval. The Rockets would not comment beyond a statement that said they “are committed to Royce’s long term success and we will continue to support him now and going forward.”

White said he offered to buy the bus himself.

The Rockets opened training camp this week in McAllen, near the Texas-Mexico border, the home of their developmental league affiliate.

White averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and five assists at Iowa State last season. He initially enrolled at Minnesota, then left the program last year and eventually transferred after pleading guilty to theft and disorderly conduct in an incident at the Mall of America.

He’s been open about his anxiety throughout his career and bluntly broke it down for reporters at his introductory press conference in Houston in June.

“Here’s how it goes,” White explained. “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 hit the runway.”

Still, it appears that what was a draft night gamble by the team and a dream come true for a talented young man has already become more of a challenge than anyone imagined.

31 Comments

  1. mj says:

    I think that he will do well, in time, but everyone at camp is ahead of him and his playing time will be very limited this year. There is a much greater chance of dying in a car accident than there is in an airplane, but his disease isn’t based on logic, it is based on fear. Even with the “plan” to take a bus when he can, he will have to take a plane most of the time this year, if he wants to have any playing time.

    Like many of you, I think he was not being “proactive” by waiting until the beginning of training camp to start to address his disease. He will be like Morris was last year, in that he will be in the d-league most of the year. Next year will be different, though, I believe. He will see that nothing is handed to him in the NBA and if he wants to take “advantage” of his talent and have a chance to earn playing time, he needs to face his fears and overcome them.

    I know 2 poeple personally that have a fear of flying. It has severely limited their lives. I was afraid of flying the first time I went, but have flown all over the world numerous times since then. My biggest problem was the intense pain in my ears (like knives twisting in them) every time I flew. It happens just before the plane’s descent. It became less each time I flew, but still never goes away. You just live with it and take it as a price for the freedom and the opportunity to go anywhere in the world in a relatively short period of time that most of the generations before us never had the opportunity to do.

    In the end, the bus trips will take a toll on him and he will overcome the anxiety that comes with the fear. The fear won’t completely go away, but it will lessen. Hopefully, it won’t be a bus accident that leads him to flying with the team like everybody else. I hope the best for him

  2. Allen L says:

    good luck boy, its a long road from the west coast to the east….

  3. steve bargo says:

    man up royce

    old women are the only people on the universe that can respectfully get away with ocd ….geez

  4. Aaron says:

    How many typos can you have in one article? Let’s count….1,2,3,4…..this guy will be fine in Houston. I am worried about the editor.

  5. anotherasianfanoflin says:

    can’t they just knock him out like b.a. before flying? hate to see player of his caliber not playin in nba

  6. SYDALE says:

    Just have him play only the home games… and the away games that aren’t all that far away like Dallas, San Antonio, New Orleans, Phoenix… etc… He should still be able to play 55-60 games a year…

  7. Chester says:

    future top 5? he hasn’t even played one game yet. at his height i don’t know how he will go. i think a better comparison might be Anthony mason.
    the only situation i can remember with fear of flying is tyrone hill in the mid 90s.

  8. Ecuador says:

    Very talented player, lots of potential. B.A Baracus flying??? just an option

  9. Gordon A says:

    Royce is a gamble but certainly one worth taking – especially with 2 other good picks, Terrence Jones playing the same position as well. He has fantastic potential and if they can combat his problems they have a future top 5 power forward on their hands. Not many players EVER have lead their college team in all of each of the 5 main statistical categories.

  10. Ken says:

    I think everyone fears flying. Knowing that you’re are way up there, and all it takes is one thing to go wrong. One mechanical failure, one flock of birds through the engines, one pilot error. That lack of control is very frightening to many people. I do believe that most people would get over that fear for millions of dollars. But whenever I fly I’m very nervous similar to what he described. The more you do it the more you gain trust for the systems in place. You also have to get to a point where you accept that you can’t be in control all the time. We are all going to die eventually, I’d rather die doing things I enjoy and facing my fears than, having a long life of regret.

  11. Hornets Fan says:

    I’m kind of confused. If he was being proactive… Why wouldn’t he have taken a bus to ensure he arrived at camp? I fully understand the severity of the situation on his end, but why would you not get to camp and then negotiate? This seems like a shake down.

  12. Dutch guy says:

    Dennis Bergkamp, one of the best European soccerplayers ever, was in fear of flying. I travels by bus througout Europe. It’s possible!

  13. Stu says:

    Hopefully Royce can have a good season, fingers crossed and good luck to him!

  14. Rapido_ratrat says:

    let him sleep then travel by air

  15. afterkwiss says:

    I sincerely hope Royce and the Rockets find a solution to allow him to play the game. Can’t wait to see him on the court! Good Luck Royce!

  16. AussieCeltic says:

    I totally agree with you mate. He can do so much good for Houston, or for any club. Watch out LeBron, This kid kid’s going to dethrone you!

  17. hapihenri says:

    he is like mr.T’s character in the A-team just knock him out before he goes to the plane and wake him up when he gets to the destination kick out some bad guys once he gets there… cool!

  18. Aidan says:

    Get him some sessions of NLP from a master. This will go back to the route cause of his fear, and after a few sessions alleviate it to allow him fly.

  19. Jonesy37 says:

    I wish him luck. Royce White has the opportunity to set a positive example for people with mental issues, rather than the negative that a lot of sports stars with similar issues unfortunately project. I will watch his career with great interest. All the best mate.

  20. Jimbo says:

    Houston… we have a problem. Sorry for the joke. I hope he overcomes his fear of flying.

  21. Kinda Shady says:

    any body else read this?

    “If the delay now is to work out a proactive plan, the question is why that wasn’t done over the summer?”

    A tad shady, and not to take anything away from this kid, but sounds like a possible gamble to me.

  22. Trem P says:

    This guy said Lebron lol. The Best Player on Earth right now and a top 10 player of alltime. He can be good but not that great.

  23. AussieCeltic says:

    I agree with you 100% mate, his skill level can really make a big difference no matter what team he plays for.

  24. AI says:

    I’m not flying or take a bus to practice.

  25. CheyPie says:

    This certainly is a unique situation that I’ve never witnessed before in the NBA. I’m interested to see how all this plays out during the season. Royce definitely has a lot of talent and I hope everything works out for him.

  26. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Royce White has the skill to be like LeBron, no joke! He is a truly amazing talent and it is really sad that he suffers from his anxiety issue, but I know that even if he makes half of the games, it will make a difference!

    • Carlos says:

      I was thinking the same thing about his game is similar to Lebron’s skill set. But I think Royce White is making this transition even more challenging by video taping the draft, getting a seperate bus made up like a home, the Jeremy Lin situation and having the whole world inside his life. I pray for him cause this can be very detrimental to his life. But the first fan raising up a banner bashing Royce for his condition should go to ????

    • CHIRO says:

      If he plays half the games, pay him half the salary!

  27. AussieCeltic says:

    I think drafting Royce wasn’t a gamble, he has so much talent and has such a unique game style, it’s not often you get a player like him, so regardless of the work involved to cure his OCD, I think it’s was a smart move drafting him. Good Luck Royce.

    • drafting him is a gamble…his disease might affect his mental stability and how he plays the game

      • Runtelldat says:

        He has played very well so far. There is no reason to believe his game will be ultimately affected. If he is comfortable it will help him suppress anxiety. For your information drafting every player is a GAMBLE! No more than the other. Why did Jordan not go first because the team gambled wrong. Its called a lottery hello. At the end of the seaon we will know how he dealt with his sickness. Get the negativity without reason outta here.