LAS VEGAS - William McDowell-White may have been overlooked in the recent NBA draft, but the 21-year-old Australian is starting to make an impact at the NBA level.
McDowell-White has been participating in Las Vegas Summer League this week with the Houston Rockets, after signing a Exhibit 10 contract with the franchise last month.
It is the same contract signed by Deng Adel and Mitch Creek twelve months ago, and McDowell-White will be looking to emulate his countrymen by leveraging a maiden NBA pact into an NBA debut over the coming twelve months. Step one in that process is Summer League, and returning to competitive basketball was a welcome boost for an athlete who has been battling a lower injury for large stretches of 2019.
The Queensland native spoke to The Pick and Roll following his Summer League debut on Sunday (local time), and explained the excitement of getting back onto the court.
“It was my first game since mid November so when I first got out there I was a little shocked and didn’t really know what to think,” McDowell-White said.
“I was thinking to myself that I was finally back out on the court. It’s tough, having your first game back in so long being against guys like Gary Trent Jr. and a lot of NBA level guys who are going at it and working for jobs. It was tough but I’m glad I finally got it out of the way.”
McDowell-White is still on the recovery trail and has been on a strict minutes limit during Summer League. He started for Houston in their second game against Sacramento. While he was restricted to just 10 minutes, McDowell-White showed off the versatile talents that make him an intriguing NBA prospect.
The Rockets have been supportive of McDowell-White despite his lingering foot injury, reinforcing the need for the Australian to be cautious and focus on building a long-term relationship together.
“He has a very high basketball I.Q,” Batt Brase, Houston’s Summer League head coach, said of McDowell-White. "He can knock down open shots and we wanted to start him tonight against the Kings.
“We wanted him to be on the ball more so that’s why we started him in the first and third quarters so he could be the primary ball handler and get other people involved. He has great I.Q. He can get others involved. I thought he had a good performance tonight with his minutes.”
Finding an NBA franchise willing to take a chance on him is the culmination of a well-traveled journey for McDowell-White. After being ruled academically ineligible at Fresno State University in 2016, the point guard was briefly a member of the Sydney Kings, before spending the past two seasons playing in Germany with Brose Bamberg, spending large stretches with Baunach Young Pikes, the franchise’s second division affiliate.
After a promising debut season in Europe, one where he showed off his playmaking talents and averaged 13 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals per game, McDowell-White briefly declared for the 2018 NBA draft. That decision was quickly reversed, and a return to Germany secured. The aforementioned foot injury limited him to just seven games last season, and McDowell-White returned to Australia to prepare for the rigorous NBA predraft process.
McDowell-White worked out for numerous franchises before June’s NBA draft, including the Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans. Jettsetting across North America in search of his NBA dream, was an exhausting experience that McDowell-White will never forget.
“I had my first [NBA workout] in Toronto and I flew in from home two days before so I was still on Australian time, so I didn’t even sleep before,” McDowell-White explained.
“Same with Charlotte, I didn’t sleep the night before. It is just exhausting. All you are doing is flying and working out. Then after each workout you are going back on the plane. You might have back to back workouts. For anyone who is going to do it in the future, just make sure you are in the best shape you can possibly be because it is definitely physically draining and even more so mentally.
“I think it is easier to stay in shape physically, but mentally, you just need to have that mindset. You can’t really train yourself to be mentally tough for this grind, especially if you make a roster and you have 82 games, that will be tough. I don’t know how the guys do it now. Mentally you just need to always be locked in, but at the same time you need to drift your mind off at night so you can regenerate and be ready to go.”
McDowell-White has been given a taste of the NBA this week; the Rockets have given him an opportunity and the door is ajar. With a firm understanding of the what life in the NBA actually looks like, he will now look to breakthrough into the league proper, when the Rockets open training camp in September. Until then, getting healthy and putting himself in the best situation to success is the priority.
“I will definitely head back to Los Angeles after [Summer League],” McDowell-White said. “I will just talk with my agent and see what we will do. Obviously it would be great to go home for a week or two just to see everyone but whatever is the best situation is what I will do.”