As the final buzzer sounded in Des Moines, Iowa's Wells Fargo Arena, the Colorado Buffaloes men's basketball season came to an end with a 74-67 loss to UConn in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament — the third first-round loss for Colorado since 2013.
For head coach, Tad Boyle, this was no ordinary off-season. With Josh Scott's iconic career coming to an end, the Buffaloes were not only losing their best player, but the face of the program. As questions loomed regarding the condition of the post-Scott era for Colorado basketball, Boyle remained confident about the future of his program, which starts with the debut of transfer guard Derrick White.
White, a 6-foot-5 point guard from Parker, Colorado, averaged 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game during his senior season at Legend High School, after which he received just one full-scholarship to Gillete College — a small junior college in Wyoming. Ultimately, he decided to stay close to home and accepted a partial scholarship to play for Division II University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.
"I've been doubted my whole life. I'm sure more people are doubting me now, wondering if I can play at this level of basketball," White said in a piece by The Gazette in Colorado Springs last October. "I hear it. I know it's there. I'm taking it as a challenge, to adjust to this level of play."
It's hard to keep track of the accolades he racked up during his three years at UCCS. In his first year, White set the school's single-season record for made free throws (165) and freshman scoring (440). He averaged 16.9 points per game and was named Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and was selected for the third team All-Conference and Division II Bulletin All-Freshman Team.
His high-level of play continued into his sophomore year, setting the school single-season record for scoring (621 points) and topping his own record for made free throws with a Division II leading 251, including the best single-game free throw performance in DII history with an 18-for-18 night from the line vs. Metro State on March 8. White averaged a UCCS program record, and South Central Region leading, 22.9 points per game during his sophomore campaign. White went on to be named an All-American, becoming the first All-American in UCCS history, as well as earning first team All-Conference and first team All-Region honors.
He went on to break the UCCS career scoring record on Dec. 5 of his junior year for the Mountain Lions. With an average of 25.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, White led UCCS to a program-best No. 2 ranking in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, and was named MVP of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament while claiming the programs first-ever RMAC Tournament championship.
His 851 points shattered the UCCS single-season scoring record — set by White in 2013-14 — and gave the program its first DII National Tournament victory against Colorado School of Mines on March 14, in which he scored 50 points for the Mountain Lions. White earned All-American honors from Daktronics, the NABC and Division II Bulletin. His 25.8 points per game was the second best in DII during the 2014-15 season, along with 274 made free throws and a field goal percentage of 52.9.
White announced his transfer to CU on April 19, 2015, becoming the seventh player to transfer to the University since Boyle became head coach in 2010. He finished his career at UCCS as the program leader in points (1,912) and assists (343). He averaged 22 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and starting all 87 games during his three years with the Mountain Lions.
Per NCAA transfer policy, White was required to redshirt during the 2015-16 season, but is eligible to return to the court this year for the Buffs.
As for head coach Boyle, he is ecstatic to add a player of White's caliber to a program that finished fifth in the Pac-12 with a record of 22-12 last season.
"Derrick's a versatile Division II All-American," Boyle said last April. "He was a kid overlooked by virtually everybody, obviously except the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, coming out of high school. He's got great size, great athleticism, and he has great skill. When you see a guy that's an All-American, and has proven everything that he can prove at the Division II level, it's exciting to bring a player like that who can score, rebound, and pass into your program."
Following last season's breakout performance by junior guard George King, Colorado will also return senior forward Xavier Johnson, who missed all of last year with an Achilles injury. Add White to that mix and the Buffaloes have the potential to be highly-potent on the offensive end in 2016-17, despite the absence of former leading scorer, Scott.
Buffs fans aren't the only ones who believe Colorado has serious potential this season. Jon Rothstein, a college basketball insider for CBS Sports, recently released his version of the Preseason Top 25 poll, which featured the Buffaloes at No. 25, followed by the comment, "Remember the name Derrick White."
As for the question of who could fill the hole left following Scott's departure, Boyle is confident in his new guard. That confidence was demonstrated last October, when asked by Gazette reporter Paul Klee if Derrick White is his best player, coach Boyle stated, "Without Josh Scott, yes."
"He'll be a pro. There's no question he's a professional basketball player when he leaves here," Boyle told Klee. "Now, what level? That's yet to be determined."
White and the new-look Buffaloes begin their 2016-17 campaign on Friday, Nov. 11 against Sacramento State at the Coors Event Center.