Royce White’s anxious voice speaks to help people


Photo: Kendra Plathe/Iowa State Daily

Royce White talks about overcoming anxiety on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012, at the Sukup Basketball Practice Facility. 

Jeremiah Davis

Royce White hears it.

He hears all the chatter in the

stands. He hears the good and the bad on Twitter. His openness

about his anxiety has become — apart from his talent on the

basketball court — what people know about him.

Truth be told, he does not mind a


“It’s been real fulfilling for me

personally, just the amount of people that contact me and say that

they have anxiety,” White said. “The amount of people from all ages

and spectrums that say that I’m doing something they find

inspirational and motivates them.”

On Jan. 26, published a

story highlighting White’s battle with anxiety disorder, and the

story that sparked it all. White witnessed a teammate collapse

during a practice in the fourth grade with a valve defect in his

heart, something the boy had from birth.

That triggered the anxiety White

still has today.

White does his best to handle his

anxiety on his own, not wanting to “burden” his coaches or

teammates with struggles he might be having.

One of his closest friends on the

team is guard Chris Babb, who said he does his best to look out for

his friend and teammate. However, Babb also said White knows how to

handle himself well.

“I think he’s handled [the

attention] well for the most part,” Babb said. “He’s kind of a guy

that wears his emotions on his sleeve, whether he knows it or not.

I hang out with him a lot. I’ve learned a lot [about mental

illness] just by being around him.”

Babb said while White has not ever

explicitly explained the details of the disorder to him, what he

has learned by osmosis has translated into what they do when they

hang out outside of practice.

“I think it’s a great experience to

have a friend like that, a teammate like that, to know to be

careful [about] the situations you put yourself in,” Babb said.

“For instance, [we] don’t go out. I don’t take him to Welch [Ave.];

I don’t take him to places where it’s outside of his


It has been well-documented the

struggles the sophomore from Minneapolis has dealt with. Since the

ESPN — and many other — stories came out, White has been active in

social media and traditional media letting people know a mental

illness does not have to negatively affect all parts of people’s


“How we talk about anxiety is risky,

and it has to be dealt with carefully,” White said. “Because it’s

such a new thing and it’s growing and so undiscovered and

unresearched, we’ve got to be careful with how we stigmatize


The stigmas White talked about can

be traced to the back-and-forth he and ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb

had via Twitter in the days following the increase in talk about

White’s disorder. Through his Twitter account, Gottlieb suggested

the disorder and the issues that come with it may hinder White’s

draft stock.

ISU coach Fred Hoiberg believes that

notion to be false. As a former NBA executive, whose job it was to

evaluate talent in that manner, Hoiberg knows a good NBA scout will

do thorough research.

“I think people will obviously look

at the whole package,” Hoiberg said. “They’ll talk to me. …

They’ll talk to [Minnesota coach] Tubby [Smith], they’ll talk to a

lot of people that have been in his life, and they’ll do their

homework on it.”

For White, the Twitter discussion

with Gottlieb was not about the NBA at all.

White said he could not care less

about what anyone believes regarding how anxiety affects his play

because the game — and the league — is not the point. He said he

worries that if kids hear that having a mental disorder is

something that will keep them from achieving their goals, they will

hide it and not get the help they need.

“I don’t say anything, really, in

defense of myself because I really don’t care about going to the

NBA or not,” White said. “It’s really not important to me. My goals

from two years ago to now have changed to helping people. Whatever

I can do to help people is what I’m striving for. If the NBA is

something, … in my future and I can use that to help people, then

I’ll do it.”

It’s that notion, the one of him

striving to help people, that may very well be the real definition

of White off the court.

Spreading the “awareness,” as he put

it, of how mental illness affects people is the goal in White’s


“For me, the anxiety thing isn’t a

big thing for me,” White said. “It wasn’t really to come out and

say, ‘Woe is me, I have anxiety disorder.’ The main piece for me

was that, especially the community I come from, anxiety disorder

and mental illness in general is probably the cause of a lot of

issues, and it’s one of the most untreated things.”

In getting his message out there,

White’s goals are lofty. He mentioned wishing there was a program

similar to Planned Parenthood, only for mental illness, because as

he put it, “STDs can’t even compare to the amount of people that

suffer from mental illness.”

Getting people help, especially

those in inner cities and people without proper health care

coverage, is something very important to White. The reason, he

said, is because often anxiety is triggered from a “traumatizing

event,” like seeing his friend collapse.

“Imagine hearing gunshots every

day,” White said. “Or imagine being a part of a community that’s

plagued with drug violence [or] domestic violence. Those are the

ones that not only need help, but they need to understand that it’s

something that is out there, and it’s probably pretty


To that end, his coach is very proud

of the soon-to-be-21-year-old. Participating in social media and

wanting people to get diagnosed is something Hoiberg believes White

should be proud of because Hoiberg is, and the public


“I think it’s great he went public

with it,” Hoiberg said. “I’ve gotten several emails from people

just talking about how much that’s helped them. It’s very admirable

of him that he did that. It’s good [because] people that battle

that disorder have some good days and have some tough


So as of now, people know White

first as an incredibly gifted basketball player with a past, then

as a player with anxiety, then as a kid with a lot of goals and

different interests.

When he leaves the court, the place

where “everything feels right,” White does not necessarily want to

be remembered as a basketball player.

It is much bigger than


“I want people to know me as a

person who believed in mankind,” White said. “I believe in mankind,

I believe that humans can figure out a way to coexist as a team on

a global level. I want to help people.

“I’m going to lay my life down in

order to help people, and that’s the sacrifice I’m willing to