COLORADO SPRINGS — This year's 2022 NBA Finals features a player who is not only from Colorado, but exploded onto the hoops scene in Colorado Springs.
"He has always been a winner, and very competitive and always had a high basketball IQ," explained UCCS men's basketball coach Jeff Culver, who took one look at Derrick White and immediately fell in love. "I remember his first campus visit. That was when I first took the job with UCCS and he was my first campus visit. It was a new program I was taking over and we were looking for top young talent to help me build something here."
The Mountain Lions did build something. By his junior season, the Parker native was wiping the Division II floor.
"There were plenty of wow moments with Derrick," Culver said. "That was when he put everything together. The shoot was coming in, he was a lot more physical, and there really wasn't anything on the floor he could not do."
The Division II All-American would then transfer to Colorado his senior year which lead to him being picked 29th overall in the 2017 NBA draft by San Antonio.
Originally, Spurs head coach and Springs native Gregg Popovich had no idea who Derrick was.
"And then he was in the G-League and watched him develop," explained Popovich, in an ESPN feature story. "So as time goes on you see little things like hey this kid can pass, this guy goes by people, this guy makes good decisions. His shot is getting better and over time, that is what happened."
Then this season, the Spurs traded the five-year vet to the Celtics at the trade deadline to compete for an NBA championship.
"It was an adjustment," explained White, prior to the NBA Finals series with the Warriors. "Sometimes when you get to a new team, you ask where do I fit in? But everyone has told me to be aggressive and be me"
White has played at a championship level in the series as he looks to help Boston win their 17th NBA title.
"Whether they win it all or not, I just feel this is a great opportunity for him to be in this moment and to be performing as he is," concluded Culver. "So we are rooting for the Celtics and hoping they can pull it off, but regardless we are just excited about this journey for him and what it has been throughout the year."
Boston took a 2-1 series lead on Wednesday with a 116 to 100 win over the Warriors in TD Garden Arena. White, who recently became a father, scored 7 points in the win.
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