AMES Royce White, red-eyed and relieved, couldn't stop smiling.
There were hugs. Tears. Relief rooted in redemption.
Once the 6-8, 261-pound point forward heard the words, "With the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select Royce White of Iowa State," he finally exhaled.
Next level, here he comes.
"I was having an hour and 45 minute panic attack up there," the one-year ISU star said last night among about 150 family and friends at the Sukup Basketball Complex. "When my name was called, the feeling was similar to when the (airplane) wheels touch down in a city at that airport. It was great. The emotions swelled from 21 years of trying to get here."
White, who led the Cyclones in scoring (13.4 points), rebounds (9.3) and assists (5.0) his lone season in Cardinal and Gold, went a few spots earlier than many projected. He'll earn roughly $1.37 million as a rookie and $1.43 million his second season seed money for an ambitious man hoping to make his mark on the court, in the entertainment industry and in politics, for starters.
The Rockets coached by Kevin McHale, who mentored Hoiberg at Minnesota hold the option on a third-season salary slated to be $1.5 million. And McHale gave Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg advance notice.
"(He) shot me a text about two picks before," said Hoiberg, who landed White as a transfer two years ago. "They were up and he said it's gonna be White...Great fit. I played for Kevin for several years and he'll use him the right way. He'll be great for Royce off the floor, as well."
Former Cyclone star Craig Brackins, a first-round pick in 2010, saw White's growth from afar last season.
Last night, he was in the same room.
"He just came up to me and said, 'I'm about to cry, I might have to get out of here,'" Brackins said. "I said, 'Just hold it in, man, just live the moment.'"
White then waited for a call from the Rockets to prove all this had really happened.
"They didn't call me five minutes before, like usually happens," he said. "I'm still waiting to hear Kevin McHale's voice to say, 'Yeah, it's real. It's real. You're coming here.' It's just a surreal moment for me."
The Golden State Warriors drafted former Ames and North Carolina standout Harrison Barnes with the seventh pick. One of Barnes' Tarheel teammates, Tyler Zeller, went to Dallas with the 17th pick, then was traded to Cleveland.
Zeller has family in Springville and Cedar Rapids. His uncle, Al Eberhard (Springville, Missouri), was a first-round pick with the Detroit Pistons in 1974.