It did not take long for D.J. White’s first NBA trade.
The Detroit Pistons drafted White with the 29th pick of the first round in Thursday’s 2008 NBA draft, but quickly dealt the Big Ten Player of the Year to the Seattle SuperSonics for the rights to two second-round picks, Walter Sharpe and Trent Plaisted.
Many experts believed White would fall to the second round, but the Sonics used two second-round picks to make sure they could bring White to Seattle.
“I just want to thank the Sonics and this organization for giving me an opportunity,” White said in his first press conference with Seattle. “It’s been a lifelong dream to be in the NBA, and I’m here now.”
White averaged 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game during his senior year for IU, making the 6-foot-9 forward an intriguing NBA prospect.
“We had always felt strongly about him as a rebounder with great length and also the ability to make face-up jump shots,” Sonics General Manager Sam Presti told the team’s official Web site. “But when we got a chance to see him up close competing and sit down with him, we were blown away by this young man’s maturity and his character.”
During his four years at IU, White’s hard work and dedication to the program made him a fan favorite, something he hopes to continue in the NBA. “Every time I step on the court I compete and that’s one of the big things about me,” White said during his press conference. “I think I bring it every day.”
Jeff Wechsler, White’s agent, said he is confident that White’s hard work will translate to success at the next level. He used White’s workout with the Toronto Raptors as an example.
The night before a scheduled workout in Toronto, White’s 6 p.m. flight was cancelled. After his 10 p.m. flight was also cancelled, a Raptors representative called White and said he could either cancel the workout or they would send a car to pick him up. White chose the latter and after a five hour drive, he arrived in Toronto at 4 a.m. The next day, his workout began at 11 a.m. and Wechsler said he was the first player on the court.
“That’s a guy who understands that this is a job,” Wechsler said. “That’s a guy who understands that success doesn’t just come to you.”
White will participate in the NBA’s summer league beginning in early July and Wechsler said he is ready to begin playing.
”He’s in such good shape right now,” Wechsler said. “His body fat is down to seven-and-a-half or eight percent. He’s just in unbelievable condition and he’s focused on maintaining his physical presence.”
White’s senior season at IU was marked by controversy after Kelvin Sampson resigned during the season amidst allegations by the NCAA that he made impermissible phone calls to recruits. The Hoosiers, a top 20 preseason team, exited the NCAA tournament in the first round.
“We went through some struggles this year,” White said in his press conference. “We didn’t finish the season like everyone thought we should or like we thought we should, but it happened. That’s in the past. All I can do now is look forward to a great opportunity here.”
The Sonics finished in last place in the Northwest Division last year with a 20-62 record. This year, however, White and the No. 4 pick Russell Westbrook join Jeff Green and last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant on a very young roster.
“D.J. is ecstatic to join a very good group of young players,” Wechsler said. “They have a young core that should grow and mature together. I think they should make some noise in the future.”
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