Recently CHN writer Jon Teitel was able to spend some time talking with Iowa State point forward Royce White, one of the best players in America. The Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, White runs the point for the Cyclones despite bing 6'9", 270 pounds. Iowa State takes on Connecticut in the 8/9 matchup in the South Region.
Jon Teitel: You transferred from Minnesota to Iowa State. Why did you decide to transfer, and how close did you come to going to Kentucky (ISU's possible opponent in the round of 32)?
Royce White: I transferred because some of the things happening at Minnesota were not conducive to me dealing with my anxiety order. I was ready to get on the plane to go to Kentucky and sign a letter of intent, but it just did not work out because I wanted to be around while my son was being born.
JT: You scored 25 points in your season-opener against Lehigh, which remains your career-high. How were you able to come in and dominate right from the start?
RW: I was confident and my team and community believed in me. I try to play a nice cerebral game and look for easy buckets. I had two years of hunger built up, so I was ready to play from the start.
JT: In January you had a triple-double (ten points, 18 rebounds and ten assists) in a win at Texas A&M. Where does that rank among the best all-around games of your career?
RW: It is probably the best. I believe your best games come when you can make your teammates better, and ten assists is my season-high.
JT: Chris Allen transferred from Michigan State, where he scored 16 points in the 2009 title game loss to North Carolina. Has he given you any advice about what to expect in March?
RW: He talks about the level of focus we need to have and gives us positive encouragement.
JT: You were recently named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year after leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. How on earth does a guy who weighs 270 pounds lead his team in all those categories?!
RW: It is tough to say. I play more above the shoulders than most guys my size, so I try to be involved in all aspects of the game. My teammates also believe in me, so we all find each other to knock down open shots.
JT: Your team made the most three-pointers in the conference this year, and Scott Christopherson has made at least two three-pointers in eight straight games. How critical is three-point shooting to your team's success?
RW: It is what we are good at so if we get going we are really hard to beat. It is a great attribute to have. However, I think it is our toughness that has made us successful this year in wins against teams like Baylor and Kansas.
JT: You have several teammates who are also Division I transfers. How have you all been able to unite as a team after starting out elsewhere?
RW: We came together because we share a common goal and we know that our team's success will lead to personal success.
JT: Coach Fred Hoiberg was recently named Big 12 Coach of the Year (shared with Kansas' Bill Self). What makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him?
RW: His preparation is tremendous. We lost some games this year that we clearly should have won after being ahead in the first half (Kansas and Missouri). He could not have drawn up a better scheme. I learned the most from him off the court (such as being a good person) because he has been good to me and given me a second chance.
JT: Sixth man Tyrus McGee was born and raised in Louisville. Is he going to be your unofficial host since you will be playing in his hometown, and will your relative Dave Winfield and/or your one-year old son be traveling to see you play in person?
RW: I did not know he was from Louisville, but I am sure he will be a good host if he was. My son is a little too young to travel. I am unsure if uncle Dave will show up because he is a very busy guy. Maybe he will if we advance a round or two.
JT: How do you feel about your seed, and how do you think you matchup against defending champ Connecticut?
RW: I think our seed is appropriate. It is tough to seed everyone so I feel for the selection committee. We could not have drawn a better team. We are almost polar opposites, so it will just come down to whoever plays the best that day.
Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg (notes from the Big 12 coaches teleconference)
Opening thoughts: "When we traveled abroad for 10 days in the preseason I saw that we could be a tournament team."
On the impact of transfers Royce White and Chris Babb: "Royce mostly played a big man on the scout team last year, but we could tell that he was a good passer. Chris is as important as anyone on this team because he is guarding our opponent's best perimeter player night in and night out."
On the three Ames HS alums in the tournament: "All three of those guys (Bubu Palo, Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott) had big roles on those high school championship teams in Ames. They are great kids who represent our city very well."
On their matchup: "Connecticut is huge. It is tough to score against Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond inside."
On his relationship with UConn assistant Kevin Ollie: "I have not talked to my old Bulls' teammate Kevin Ollie since the bracket came out, but he is one of my all-time favorites who got the most out of his abilities."
On the challenge White presents for opponents: "Not many teams have a big guy like Royce who can create both for himself as well as his teammates. We try to have good movement and spacing."