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Derrick White didn’t take the typical path to the NBA. The Boston Celtics guard admitted he wasn’t recruited out of high school, as his scrawny frame didn’t attract a whole lot of scouts.

Slowly but surely, he worked his way up the college ranks, eventually landing at Colorado University. After his one season playing for the Buffaloes, the San Antonio Spurs made him the 29th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. When he finally made the big bucks as a pro, he spent his first paycheck like no other NBA player.

The road to the NBA never looked good for Derrick White

Derrick White of the Boston Celtics dunks during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at TD Garden on November 14, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Winslow Townson/Getty Images.

White admits he was about 90 pounds as a high school freshman. During a recent interview with former NBA player JJ Redick on Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast, White said he grew a little more by his senior year but not nearly enough to attract big-time scouts.

“I was tiny all throughout high school,” White told Redick. “I think I was like 90 pounds my freshman year. I was small, just hoopin’ for fun.

“Really didn’t think much about it, but over the years, I grew a little bit. My senior year, I was like six feet and like 150. Nobody was interested in a six-foot, 150 kid from Parker, Colorado. So, I was just hoopin’ and just trying to get some D-2’s because there’s a lot of D-2’s in Colorado, and just nobody was talking to me.”

White said he heard from the Denver campus of Johnson & Wales, an NAIA school, and a junior college in Gillette, Wyoming. Coach Jeff Culver was the coach at Johnson & Wales but then became the head coach at D-2 University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

“Thankfully, Coach Culver got the job at UCCS and basically brought me on as a preferred walk-on,” White said. “It was an opportunity to play college, so I gotta take it.”

White spent his first paycheck paying off student loans

At UCCS, White grew to 6-foot-5 and became the school’s all-time leading scorer in his three years. He transferred to Colorado, where he played one year of Division 1 basketball after sitting out a season because of the transfer.

“I felt like I did everything I could have at the Division 2 level,” White said. “I was averaging crazy numbers, putting up crazy numbers. If I’m going to challenge myself, I gotta (transfer). To have CU offer me, a Pac-12 school, you can’t really get much better than that.”

At Colorado, White averaged 18.1 points, 4.4 assists, and 4.1 rebounds. The Spurs snagged him near the end of Round 1 in 2017. When he earned his first NBA paycheck, he had some business to take care of.

“My freshman year, I got a (student) loan, and I just had it the whole time,” White said. “Then, my first paycheck, I paid it off, and that was pretty cool to do.”

Redick was amazed by the story.

“Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another NBA player that had student loans,” he told White. “Generally speaking, NBA players are recruited. They get scholarships.”

White has come a long way from his student-loan days. He came to Boston last year in a trade-deadline deal. He’s two years into a four-year deal worth $70 million.


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