One of college basketball's best players is fighting the good fight against mental illness.
Royce White has led Iowa State to the doorstep of its first NCAA tournament birth in seven years, but it's his battle off the court that is drawing well-deserved attention. White is one of nearly 40 million Americans dealing with an anxiety disorder.
The 20-year-old has been on medication since he was an early teen.
"Anxiety isn’t really something you can measure," White told the Des Moines Register. "That’s why it’s so hard to diagnose, so hard to pinpoint. If I didn’t take my medication, any number of things could happen -- it could affect my mind, and my body. I could get the sweats.
"What anxiety is, is your mind telling your body that there’s a threat, so it produces adrenalin so you can fight off that threat. That could make you do anything, conceptually, but I’m not a dumb individual. I wouldn’t do something off-the-wall like skydive."
White is afraid of flying, but unlike retired broadcaster John Madden, who traveled by bus, he travels by plane with the Cyclones around the Big 12. Royce tells the Des Moines Register he will "ask the flight attendants 10 times if the flight's going to be all right."
A native of St. Paul, Minn., White originally signed to play for the University of Minnesota but was forced to leave the school before playing a game because of legal issues. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a shoplifting incident and misdemeanor trespassing in another incident.
White has found success in Ames. He lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his 1-year-old son and the child's mother. Royce is the only player in major college basketball leading his team in five major statistical categories, according to the Register. White leads the Cyclones in points (12.9), rebounds (9.1), assists (4.9), steals (1.0) and blocked shots (1.1).
But even with all his success, the Iowa State basketball player knows what really matters.
"It’s two different worlds for me," White said. "There’s who I am off the court, and who I am on the court. “Who I am on the court comes secondary to all the other stuff."
White has come up with a 10-year-plan for his future, which includes getting into the music business and starting a clothing design company. He has plans for a documentary about his life, and he is writing a blog about coping with mental illness. Later in life he'd like to travel to Tibet and work with monks.
White is even mulling a political career; just don't ask him which party he supports.
"At this point, neither," White said. "There are things to be taken from both parties that they both do well. It’s bigger than Republican or Democrat. It’s bigger than Christian and Muslim, than male and female, and it’s bigger than black and white. It’s bigger than all of that. A lot of people need help, and if my businesses can help them, then that’s what I’m about."
An NBA career is possible, but White understands the odds are against it.
"The NBA is out there," White told the Register. "It’s a good thing, but it’s a crapshoot. Sixty people are picked a year -- 15 to 20 Europeans, (plus) college guys and high school guys. Who knows? Right now, I’m just thinking about the next game.
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