Thunder basketball: How D.J. White is dealing with a lost rookie season

By Darnell Mayberry, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: March 6, 2009 at 12:18 am •  Published: March 6, 2009
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’s a testament to his character.

“I love that kid. I love his spirit. I love the way he thinks about the game and cares about the game. It’s unfortunate that he had this setback. But if anybody can handle it, he can. That kid is top notch off the court.”

White labeled his injury a “humbling” experience.

“Every day people take stuff for granted, just going out there and playing,” White said. “And then you realize how much you miss it when you’re sitting out. That’s one thing I’ve learned, just how much I miss basketball.”

White can only run, shoot and lift weights while adhering to doctor’s orders to avoid drills that could lead to a blow to the face. But players and coaches that saw the 6-foot-9, 250-pound White at full strength in the Orlando Summer League in July and during voluntary workouts in September describe him as a versatile forward who can rebound, block shots and consistently knock down jump shots out to 20 feet.

White was named Big Ten Player of the Year during his senior season at Indiana after averaging 17.4 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots while shooting 60.5 percent from the field.

“He’s very athletic, and he’s very active, especially on the boards,” said rookie guard Russell Westbrook, who teamed with White during summer league play. “He can score and bring people out to the elbow. He’s going to be a good asset for us, especially rebounding and blocking shots.”

Nick Collison compared White to Dallas’ Brandon Bass and Detroit’s Jason Maxiell, but White said he feels he has a superior perimeter game and better ball-handling ability than those fourth-year forwards.

“We think very highly of him here, and we could use him here,” said Kevin Durant. “I think sometimes he might feel like he’s letting the team down because he doesn’t play. But we know that this is a serious injury for him and that it’s going to take time for him to get back.”

In the meantime, White said he’s soaking up as much as he can about the NBA, analyzing players’ tendencies and observing his teammates to see what it takes to mentally and physically prepare for an 82-game season.

“I know it’s still going to be a learning process (when he returns), but I think from watching it and seeing everything that will help me out.

“This first year in the league has been a lifelong dream. But to come out of the tunnel and finally be able to get on the court, that’ll be big.”



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