Spurs guard Derrick White, a Legend grad, reflects on the impact of high school basketball

(Kevin Keyser/KeyserImages.com)

PARKER — In the same fieldhouse where he had once been a camper, and later a coach at camps, Derrick White hosted his inaugural Basketball Academy this week, drawing hundreds of attendees who ranged from elementary high school.

White, a 2012 graduate of Legend — the school's first graduating class — is now the starting point guard for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.

His career, now well documented, spans the rise from a lightly-recruited guard out of high school to Division II Colorado-Colorado Springs — where he was a two time All-American — to the University of Colorado — where he was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick — to a first-round NBA Draft pick of the Spurs.

"My whole story is crazy. I never imagined this," White said. "I'm just playing a game I loved, and it just kept getting better and better. It's amazing what you can do when you work hard."

Though his story is a long way from over, this week completed a nice circle of sorts for White: He was once a camper at Parker Fieldhouse, where his Derrick White Basketball Academy is being held, and later a camp coach.

"It's been fun," White said. "It's kinda crazy having a camp where I grew up. I even worked these camps. I was in one of these camps. It's a long ride, and it's been fun."

His transition to camp host has been natural. White was fully engaged with each kid who came through the Fieldhouse. It's clear that this is his camp, not just a camp that bears his name.

"It's just something I've been doing for awhile," White said. "I've always coached these camps, so you've just got to be engaged. My job is pretty easy compared to all the other coaches. I just kind of roam around and try to bring some energy. It's fun."

White made his NBA debut in October 2017, against Minnesota. He was asked about it by a camper on Wednesday, and his eyes lit up. White told the campers, with a huge smile, that he entered the game for 10 seconds.

White played in 20 games that season, including three postseason contests, while splitting time with the Austin Spurs of the G-League.

This season, White played in 67 regular season games for the Spurs, starting 55, as he averaged 9.9 points, 3.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocks. He also started all seven games of their first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, where he became a breakout star in the postseason, averaging 15.1 points, including a career-high 36 in a Game 3 win.

(Kevin Keyser/KeyserImages.com)

Campers in attendance, some of whom were wearing Derrick White jerseys under their camp-issued shirt, were somewhat in awe of the local kid turned NBA star as he sat with them to break down film and use it to reinforce the lessons they'd been taught in the gym earlier in the day.

After the film session, White asked the campers if the had any questions. One asked if it was easy to dunk. White smiled, and said that it was now — but also that he didn't dunk for the first time until the last game of his senior year of high school.

White, who turns 25 next week, is in some ways a long way removed from his time at Legend. But he looks back on it fondly.

"I loved it," White said of playing high school basketball. "I was so much fun. Going to a brand new school, the first graduating class. It was just a different experience. And I learned a lot from ... the whole coaching staff that we had there.

"I'm still friends with a lot of my teammates that were there," he added. "It was just a lot of fun, and it made me who I am."

Asked to look back on his favorite moments from high school, White said, "Beating Ponderosa was always fun for me. Our games against Chap were always legendary, playing in the playoffs, getting a couple of wins there."

As a senior, White led Legend to a Class 5A Sweet 16 appearance following wins over Brighton and on the road at Fossil Ridge — "That was fun," he said. Then, the Titans fell to Arapahoe, the eventual runner-up.

"The Arapahoe game, my last game, it hurts. It still stings me," White said. "But it was all fun, it was all good memories. It was a good time."

Now, as his NBA career begins to flourish, he's turned into quite a representative for his home state.

"I always say I'm a Colorado kid, and I try to come back here as much as I can," White said. "I remember where I came from. I'm always rooting for the other Colorado teams, like the Rockies and the Broncos. I love Colorado."

(Kevin Keyser/KeyserImages.com)