AMES, Iowa - Iowa State sophomore forward Royce White is leaving the school after playing one season and declaring for the NBA draft.
White, the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year, said at a news conference Wednesday that he intended to sign with an agent soon. The 6-8, 270-pound forward from Minneapolis led the Cyclones with 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds a game this season and helped Iowa State reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years.
White was at his best in the tournament, scoring 23 points with nine rebounds in an 87-71 loss to top-seeded Kentucky on Saturday, and was the only player in the country to lead his team in points, rebounds, steals, assists and blocks.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who left the front office of the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Cyclones two seasons ago, said that after talking with NBA people, it was easy to recommend that White make the jump.
"He had a special season — there's no doubt about that. There's just not many people that lead your team in five major statistical categories. He's just so well-rounded, so versatile. Where so many people at that next level draft on potential, you're getting a pretty good product here," Hoiberg said. "He does so many different things on the floor."
White began his career at Minnesota in 2009-10 but transferred to Iowa State without playing a game. He sat out the 2010-11 season before blossoming into the Cyclones' most indispensable player.
White left the hometown Gophers after a year filled with off-the-court issues. But White said his two years in Ames helped him discover himself on and off the court.
"Living in this community and seeing how great it is and how well it functions, how much the people do for each other here, really allowed me to reflect and find myself as a man and become better off as a human being and move forward to who I want to be the rest of my life," White said.
Iowa State fans shared a similar affection for White, who instantly became a favorite in Ames with his outgoing personality and unusual game.
Strong and physical, he was also at times the team's best ball-handler and the rare big man who could take his defender off the dribble and attack the basket.
But White was also terrible from the foul line, shooting 49.8 percent. He was upfront about his ongoing battle with anxiety problems as well, but he and Hoiberg said Wednesday that that shouldn't be an issue for him once he joins an NBA team.
White feels he's ready to test himself against the world's best players. Though his questionable jumper will be an issue at the next level, he also offers a unique combination of athleticism, strength and skill for his size.
"I do a number of things OK. I guess that's kind of impressive, that I do more than one thing OK," White said. "I would say that I probably have to improve on everything — definitely my shot is probably one."
Despite losing White, the Cyclones should be in contention for another NCAA tournament berth in 2012-13.
Iowa State will add former Michigan State point guard Korie Lucious and wing player Will Clyburn, a first-team all-Mountain West pick at Utah in 2010-11 after averaging 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds. Guard Chris Babb and forward Melvin Ejim also return, and they'll be bolstered by a recruiting class headlined by top-rated power forward Georges Niang — who could help fill White's void in the post.
"We get two guys that sat out this year that are ready to go. You get guys that are coming back, freshmen that become sophomores, which there's a huge jump you can make over the course of that first season," Hoiberg said. "I'm very excited about what we can do with this team next year."