Boston Celtics

How Manu Ginobili inspired Derrick White early in C's guard's career

As a Spurs rookie, White found Ginobili's effectiveness at 40 to be an inspiration for the rest of his career.

NBC Universal, Inc.

To best understand Boston Celtics guard Derrick White, you have to know where he came from and what he experienced.

White was never a highly touted prospect. Coming out of high school, White began his college career at the Division II level at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs as a redshirt freshman. After quickly showing promise, he made his way into the starting lineup just weeks into his first season.

White became a staple for the UCCS Mountain Lions and never looked back, scoring an impressive 24.1 points on 50.1 percent from the field, 6.9 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game in his two seasons with the program. After becoming the school's all-time leader in points and assists, White quickly found himself on the Division I radar. Paired with his 110 blocks and 106 steals over the two seasons, the Division I Colorado Buffaloes came knocking.

Now with a tougher challenge at a higher level, White adjusted quickly, proving he could compete with the best prospects in the country. In his sole season with the Buffaloes, White logged 18.1 points on 50.7 percent from the field, 4.4 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game, showcasing how versatile of a player he could be.

The San Antonio Spurs took notice, selecting White with the 29th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. Buried on the depth chart behind the likes of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Dejounte Murray, Danny Green, and Patty Mills, White chose to use his time on the bench to observe and learn from some of the game's greats.

"Getting drafted by San Antonio, I watched Manu [Ginobili] his last year in the NBA," White said of his rookie year in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin. "He's not doing anything crazy out there, but he's super effective here at 40 [years old], so I took things from that and just kind of went with it. Being drafted there and learning from a guy like that, it made it a lot better for me. He's special."

A career sixth man, Ginobili always found ways to help his team win. With more talented teammates through the majority of career such as Tim Duncan, David Robinson, and Parker, Ginobili never needed to be the go-to guy, so he filled in the role of whatever the team needed from him. While his stats may not jump off the page, he still found his way into the Hall of Fame by playing his role effectively, helping his team win four NBA titles.

White now finds himself in a similar role for the Celtics as Ginobili had for the Spurs. With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, and Kristaps Porzingis expected to do most of the scoring, White has honed in on his game, becoming such an effective player that he is ranked third across the NBA for plus/minus.

"When I'm out there, [I'm] trying to help impact winning the best way I can, and I think that kind of reflects that," White said of leading the Celtics in plus/minus and net rating. "I just try to go out there and make the simple play. I'm not trying to hit a home run every time down the court, I'll just take what the defense is giving me and make the right read off of that."

With the arrival of Porzingis and Holiday this past offseason, fans weren't even sure if White would make the starting lineup. But White has quickly become one of Boston's most efficient and reliable players, logging 15.4 points on 47.8 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep, 5.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and just shy of a block per game in what has quickly become his career-best season.

With his eyes set on one of the most effective players of all time, White will aim to continue improving year after year in Ginobili's footsteps with the ultimate goal of helping his team win championships in any role necessary.

Watch White's full interview with Chin below:

Contact Us