Royce White: Resilient former NBA player has surprisingly re-signed with the London Lightning after a dominant season

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The London Lightning has announced the signing of last year’s most dominant player in the National Basketball League of Canada.

It’s also the first player signing for the Lightning for the 2017-18 season.

To the surprise of many, league MVP Royce White has decided to return to the Lightning for his second season.

With the kind of season the former National Basketball Association first-round draft choice had, most expected he would move on to Europe or some other league. He was in negotiations with a least one team in Italy.

But his comfort level with London and the lure of winning a second title were two of the reasons he opted to return to the Lightning.

“We got a good thing going here I believe,” White said. “It’s always good to defend a title. It doesn’t take anything away from what we did last year but winning another title is what makes it mean something. If you have a league where players are constantly achieving and moving on, it diminishes the integrity of the championship every time.

“For me personally it’s good for me to be here right now. There’s a lot of things that need to be addressed, discussed, that need to be tackled. There’s nowhere in the world where I can go to play that people aren’t going to say the competition isn’t to my skill level. I could go play anywhere and everyone would just still say I should do well because I belong in the NBA. What’s there to chase? Why would I go?”

White says he has business interests, continuing education on mental health and he’s planning on doing a podcast that “has a lot of girth to it.”

“Where I am logistically this year is important to me over the next 12 months,” he said.

2016-17 was White’s first complete season in three years. He averaged 21 points a game and 10 rebounds. He had five triple-doubles.

His return and desire to win a second title may be an indication that most of the Lightning players who played on last year’s championship team are returning.

Lightning owner Vito Frijia says he has a number of players who have already signed.

“I’ve already said that most of the players want to return,” Frijia said.

In announcing White’s signing, Frijia said that White had offers in “the NBA Summer League, NBA G League (former D League) and in Europe.”

“A lot of us discussed it informally,” said White about the players who want to return from last year’s team. “I think I had a pretty good idea of what we were going to deal with for sure.”

White said he feels comfortable in London.

“It’s good people,” he said. “The thing that I’ve figured out is that it isn’t about where you are but its more about who you are around and what you want to do and how you mix the two. It’s easy for anybody in my position to run to the Middle East and take one of these enormous cheques but a lot of time you can be making a lot of money and not be moving forward in your life personally.”

With the way White operated last year, especially near the end of the season, it was difficult to believe he’d spent any time away from the game. With a year under his belt, a lot will be expected of him.

“My game is going to continue to take shape,” he said. “The more I continue to play, the more I’m going to become what I should be. There will be a lot of old Royce and some new. Last year was really my first full season since college.

“There are things that I can probably do that I don’t even realize yet. That only comes from continuing to play. That will probably happen too, which is scary.”

One of the major adjustments the team and White will have to make is operating without Kyle Julius. The NBL coach of the year left the team after a record-setting season. White and Julius had a close relationship.

“That’s not ideal,” White said. “He’s a terrific coach. He works really hard, one of the hardest working coaches I’ve been around. Even though I haven’t played a full season, I’ve been around a lot of coaches in that time. I’m still hopeful that him and Vito can figure something out. That’s the ideal situation; if not we’ve got to be able to defend that belt one way or another.”

Frijia says that he’s been interviewing coaches and is conducting second interviews with those he believes are the best choices.

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