By Mike Gallagher
For the first time since Royce White’s shoplifting incident back in early November, Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball and the 17th ranked recruit in the nation was back on the court for the Golden Gophers, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
In late December, White was allowed to attend Gopher practices, but not participate. Today was the first basketball action White has seen on a Williams Arena floor in recent memory.
Since quitting the Gophers basketball team via YouTube a little over a month ago, he had slipped into the back of Gopher fans minds. When a story came out just over a week ago about White being “open” to remaining with the Gophers, a dim light was cast upon an otherwise grim situation.
Since YouTube isn’t exactly recognized as a binding contractual agreement by the NCAA, White could be re-instated at any time to Tubby’s squad and never actually left that program since YouTube is as far as the departure process got. The YouTube claim of quitting was just that, an unsubstantiated claim.
According to the Star Tribune, Frank White, Royce’ grandfather, said that White’s attorney expects the laptop fiasco in which White was accused to be resolved later this week.
It would appear that with White practicing today, Smith, as well as athletic director Joel Maturi, expect Royce to be cleared of any wrongdoing involving the campus burglary.
As for Frank White, he has been a central figure in Royce’ numerous encounters with all kinds of odd scenarios. From theft, to YouTube videos, to White’s meeting with Tubby Smith around Christmas which led to Royce being allowed back at practice, Frank White has been the one to have all the information.
The next piece of information to come from this situation will be very important, whether it be White’s official re-instatement, or the verdict in the campus burglary case, it will hold the key to if White will play this year or not.
His presence inside could be used to take some of the pressure off of the three starting guards that are expected to carry the offensive load. White is also a legitimate athlete, one which the Gophers are severely lacking. His playmaking would instantly turn the Gophers back into a Big Ten contender.
Whatever the next piece of news may be, don’t expect to see White on the court for at least two to three more weeks. He still has to get back in game shape and who knows if White will play at all this year.
His life has been a roller coaster, mostly self-inflicted, over the last few months and who’s to say if he has even been in a gym shooting around lately. If he is re-instated, getting the rust off will be a key factor in how long it takes to see Royce in maroon and gold.
Expect Tubby Smith to be extremely careful with White’s return, though, as I’m sure Tubby will not just thrust White into the rotation haphazardly.
With established contributors that have been around the whole year settling into roles, White might face a long road back just to get a bench spot for Tubby.
I would still contend that it is smarter for the Gophers to just redshirt White and save his eligibility until he can actually participate in a full year of team activities, rather than rush him back and possibly damage an already fragile kid’s psyche.
Statements are yet to be made from Tubby Smith or White on why today was the day for him to start practicing again, and what the future holds for White and the team
As details are available, check back to The Sports Bank for more updates.