The long-awaited and inevitable rise of William McDowell-White
McDowell-White’s talent has long been obvious, but his path to prominence has included confidence issues and moments of frustration with his play along the way.
Credit: May Bailey Photography
William McDowell-White has seemingly been around forever, yet this year he was still only a couple of weeks short of qualifying for the NBL Next Generation Award.
Queenslanders will have even earlier memories, but I first recall getting an extended look at his game eight years ago, watching both the Australian School Championships and the Under 19 World Championships. Despite being a 1998-born player, competing with and against 1996 and 1997 born players, McDowell-White led Australia in minutes in Greece. 10 of the 12 players on that Emus squad have gone on to play in the NBL.
In 2016, I was completely enamoured with his play for the Brisbane Spartans in the SEABL. Clearly already a level above most players with his basketball intelligence, he also had good positional size and athleticism, and could fill up all the stat categories.
If you were told at that point that he would be one of the most important players in an NBL championship series in 2023, you wouldn’t have blinked. It would have probably been viewed as the middle to lower end of his likely outcomes. He looked ready to log bench minutes at that higher level back in 2016.
There was some NBA chatter in his teenage years too, including invites to elite junior events such as the Nike Hoop Summit in 2016, not that the path he appeared to be on completely clicked with Will.
“I’ve probably had a confidence problem my whole life. Not even just with the pros. Growing up I never thought I was the best player, or I would go into games where I thought I might get shown up here today, against guys who had no business being on a court with me… I’ve never really had that sense of, oh I can be an exciting prospect or a good player in certain leagues. I never knew [the junior hype] was a thing.”
McDowell-White’s full chat with Liam Santamaria was one of the most fascinating player interviews in the last twelve months, and is worth a full listen.
After failing to get academically eligible to play at Fresno State, the Sydney Kings signed McDowell-White as a development player, an experience that didn’t include much court time or the best development environment.
McDowell-White, again speaking with Santamaria:
“Probably not the best group as an 18 year old to come into. Just a lot of different personalities… Off the court, I spent a lot of time with Greg [Whittington], which was probably not a good thing. There were just too many different characters there. Honestly it was pretty bizarre. Then having [Andrew Gaze] with [Lanard Copeland] as well, it was interesting for sure… there was a good square up in the locker room after a particular game.”
In between that first NBL experience with the Kings and returning with the Breakers in 2021, McDowell-White first spent two seasons in Germany. This included a highly productive initial season on Brose Bamberg’s ‘farm’ team, before getting more exposure at the higher European level as well. Ultimately, he went undrafted and opted into the G League route for two more seasons. There, his averages peaked at just three points, three rebounds, and three assists.
“Germany [was better for my game] by far. The G League, I like to call it pick up with refs. I think it’s just a lot of guys trying to get numbers and get call ups which is not good for certain guys. In Europe you play the right way, or you’re gone, so that’s an easy choice.”
McDowell-White needed a different situation and more minutes to figure out who he really was as a player, so the next move was a midseason arrival in New Zealand.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Pick and Roll to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.