Losing Andrew White, III stinks. There isn't anyone, except perhaps White himself, or his father, that will tell you otherwise. To wrinkle your nose at the wafting odor is normal. The unpleasant stench is real. The knee-jerk reaction is to say there is something wrong with Tim Miles and his program, and perhaps there is, but it is also short-sighted to assume he is the lone party at fault. The pungent aroma coming from this ordeal comes from Richmond, Virginia.
Andrew White, Jr, the father of the transferring White III, in Lee Barfknecht's story in the Omaha World-Herald intimated the lack of success as a program hurts his son's chances of making it in the NBA. Perhaps there is some correlation, but it is far from a determining factor. Many players have come from programs that didn't find success at the college ranks. One glaring example is Klay Thompson, a player White III has compared himself to. Thompson came from noted college hoops power...Washington State. Thompson made his name in the NBA by working hard and being undeniably good at his craft. In the recent NBA draft, players were selected in the first round from programs with the standing of Cal, Washington, Vanderbilt, New Mexico State and Florida State. Let's not pretend those are all juggernaut programs. There's great exposure from elevating a program, too, like Oklahoma's Buddy Hield did. White had the opportunity to do that at Nebraska. You don't have to go to Duke, Michigan State or North Carolina to get noticed by NBA scouts, especially when you're already at a Big Ten school.
What gets you noticed is putting in the hard work in the off season to reduce the things that kept you from getting drafted in the first place. What gets you noticed is being a senior leader and offensive focal point of a Big Ten team poised to make a big jump up the standings. What raises red flags is running from opportunities right in front of you, backing down from those challenges instead of choosing to lead, leaving your teammates, who have worked just as hard as you and have the same dreams you have in the lurch. That stinks. There are good, honest, hard-working people in the program. By putting his career, and his career alone, as his top priority, he's put a promising season and the careers of coaches and staff members who have invested in him in peril. Is the the kind of team player an NBA executive wants to bring into the organization?
Some college program will take him. There's virtually no risk. An accomplished player from a major conference with the idea that the has something to prove will be attractive to a lot of coaches with an open scholarship. If the pressure is too much for White to handle, no problem, there's room on the bench. If he does play well, however, you've found yourself a nice little piece to win some games with. White will have a soft landing spot.
But that's what is so peculiar about this: There are many within the program (and a bunch outside of it, too) that thought this team had a chance to be an upper-division team in the Big Ten this season. The opportunity to achieve the things his dad says he needs to get noticed by the scouts were available to him at Nebraska. White's departure puts a major dent in those efforts. Losing a key piece to the equation will be a difficult void to fill. There is no obvious replacement for what he brought to the court. There is not 3-point threat that will draw as much attention as he would have. Miles went out and addressed the glaring hole on the roster. Last season's touted freshman, now sophomore class, started to find their traction towards the end of last season. This season sees more talent, arguably more talented than the class before it, join the roster.
With White's departure comes an opportunity to fill the void for somebody. One way or another, this will be a defining moment for this team. Will the players on the roster develop the toughness to band together and raise their collective games to the next level? Or will they collapse under the disappointment and allow it to sour the whole thing? This will be the story of the season.
The scrutiny will no doubt increase on Miles during his fifth season. It's conspicuous whenever a 5th year senior leaves in the middle of the summer. Perhaps this will move him off the transfer circuit. With one currently sitting this season out, perhaps the time has come to fortify the program with high school kids. The past two classes are a great start in that transition. Recruiting has increased at a rate largely unprecedented at the University of Nebraska. White's departure doesn't change that. There is still talent enough to win. While the sting of the immediate news may put a damper on this season, there are many dividends to be returned down the road if the young talent takes advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully, for Miles' sake, he will still be around to reap the harvest.