Basketball success has never been an easy slam dunk for Aaron White.
So why would the former Iowa star's quest to fulfill his NBA dream be any different?
White, who turned a single power-conference scholarship offer into an all-Big Ten career, might be one of 60 players chosen during Thursday's NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y. He might not.
Either way, the journey doesn't end whether his name is called at the Barclays Center. It's just beginning.
"I don't think it's really big where you go or what happens on Thursday," White said, "it's more about the work you put in after that."
Many draft projections have White landing somewhere in the 50s, late in the second round. Others have him going undrafted. Either scenario presents an uncertain career path, with the exclusivity of a 15-man NBA roster the ultimate destination.
Uncertain, in this case means, complicated. Here's one way to explain the options:
For a second-round player (let's call him SRP for now), NBA teams are required to offer SRP, at minimum, a non-guaranteed contract worth the league minimum of $525,093. With a few exceptions, this is pretty standard. SRP can then make one of two choices.
No. 1: SRP can decline the offer and attempt an overseas career — but if SRP chooses to return to the NBA, the team that drafted him maintains SRP's rights until he's cut, traded or eventually signed and his contract expires. Sometimes this is an agreement made between team and SRP, a practice known as "draft and stash."
No. 2: SRP can sign and play for that team in the NBA Summer League. From there, SRP could play his way into training camp and onto an NBA roster and sign for partially guaranteed money and accept an NBA Developmental League assignment or get cut — at which point SRP becomes a free agent and could opt to play professionally overseas (more lucrative financially than the D-League). No. 2 is the more likely scenario for White. If he is drafted, anyway.
If he isn't, then he'll likely sign with an NBA team as an undrafted free agent, play in the summer league and see what happens.
"There's so many pathways to making the NBA," White said. "Obviously … I would love to get drafted and make the team and, shoot, start playing right away. But that rarely happens."
Former Hawkeye Devyn Marble showed last year that a second-round pick can stick. He was the 56th overall pick in 2014 and negotiated a three-year deal with the Orlando Magic, earning a guaranteed $884,879 in his first season. Marble played in 16 games for the Magic, starting seven, while spending some time in the D-League.
Of course, Marble (a shot-creating guard) and White (a rim-running forward) have vastly different skill sets. White doesn't superstar measurables, which is probably why Iowa's Fran McCaffery was the only Big Ten coach to offer him a scholarship. White went on to become the Hawkeyes' No. 2 all-time leading scorer and No. 3 rebounder.
At the NBA Draft Combine, White measured 6 feet, 83/4 inches (with shoes) and weighed 220 pounds. His vertical jump was 35 inches — by comparison to other Big Ten forwards, Maryland's Dez Wells was at 39 and Michigan State's Branden Dawson and Wisconsin's Sam Dekker was at 341/2.
All told, White worked out for 16 different teams, capped Wednesday by his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. He'll watch the draft from Ohio.
"It's been a lot of fun. A little bit stressful, to be honest," said White, who also has a daughter due in August with his college girlfriend, Grace Burns. "You really don't know; you really don't have answers. You've just got to understand the chips will fall where they may. Whatever happens isn't the end-all, be-all. You've just got to keep working and keep fighting."
That determination was White's calling card during a memorable four-year career at Iowa, which was coming off an 11-20 season when he joined the program. As a senior, he led the Hawkeyes to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2001.
Scouts like White's basketball IQ, his high energy and effectiveness in the team construct. DraftExpress.com ranks him as the No. 49 overall prospect. NBAdraft.net has him going No. 55 overall; CBSSports.com has him No. 56.
But where his professional trajectory goes will depend on so many things, including roster fit — and then more hard work, of course. For White, that's been there, done that.
"My mentality is if I get my foot in the door, whether it's this year, next year, two years from now," White said, "I'm going to be good to go."
Where NBADraft.net projects Big Ten Conference players to go in Thursday's draft:
- No. 3: D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State (Philadelphia 76ers)
- No. 14: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (Oklahoma City Thunder)
- No. 16: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin (Boston Celtics)
- No. 38: Terran Petteway, Nebraska (Detroit Pistons)
- No. 48: Travis Trice, Michigan State (Oklahoma City Thunder)
- No. 55: Aaron White, Iowa (San Antonio Spurs)