Gamble pays off as Melbourne United star signs with Denver Nuggets

Jack White took a gamble when he put country ahead of his NBA dream earlier this month but the decision has paid dividends, with the athletic forward joining the Denver Nuggets.

White, the Melbourne United star in the NBL, has signed a two-way contract with a franchise legitimately chasing an NBA championship and boasting two-time league MVP, Nikola Jokic.

United chief executive Nick Truelson said White’s elevation was due reward for the work he had put in.

Jack White celebrated after this dunk over Japan at John Cain Arena this month – now he has even more reasons to celebrate after signing with the Nuggets.Credit:Getty Images

“We could not be more proud of Jack. We have seen the incredible amount of work he has put in and, with the talent he has, we had a feeling that this was a real possibility for him when he was selected to play in the Summer League,” he said.

“Jack is a fantastic person, athlete and player, and we can’t wait to see what he can do now that he has been given this opportunity in the NBA.”

The two-way contract means he is likely to start the season with the Nuggets’ G-League affiliate, Grand Rapids Gold, but can be elevated to the NBA team.

White, 24, had been invited by the Nuggets to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where teams roll out emerging talent. He told the franchise he would go – but only if he could first make his international debut with the Australian Boomers rather than complete a pre-tournament training camp.

While there was an element of risk in this, for multibillion-dollar NBA franchises can be demanding, and there is also the risk of injury, the Nuggets agreed, allowing White to step out before his home crowd in Melbourne against China and Japan this month, before leaving for the US just hours after the World Cup qualifiers had finished.

He made an immediate impact with the Nuggets, scoring eight points, 15 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal against Cleveland. Then came 14 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Jack White was a central piece for Melbourne United last season but the NBL franchise now has another roster spot to fill.Credit:Getty Images

Overall, he averaged eight points, 6.5 rebounds, one steal, and shot 70 per cent from the field in his first four Summer League games.

Coming off a torn Achilles tendon, he averaged 9.3 points while shooting 54 per cent from the field for United last season, before the defending champions fell in the semi-finals.

“Now he’s the most inspiring example of being defined by your comebacks, not your setbacks,” White’s manager, Sam Wloszczowski, said.

Considered a future Boomers captain because of his strong values, the Traralgon-born White understands what it takes to succeed at the elite level. He is a team-first player, an excellent defender, strong rebounder and passer, and has been working on his long-range shooting. He will give the Nuggets depth at the wing position.

He is a former Duke captain, having played under legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski, and alongside NBA stars including Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Grayson Allen.

White’s defection means United have more work to do on their roster, for they had already lost starting centre Jo Lual-Acuil jnr, who was also at Summer League, with the Phoenix Suns. Playmaker Matthew Dellavedova has been working out with the Sacramento Kings.

White’s signing comes after Dyson Daniels and Luke Travers were the latest Australian additions to the NBA, having been drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers respectively.

Several Australians impressed in the Summer League, including star point guard Josh Giddey, who opted to kickstart his second season with the Oklahoma City with competitive play. The No.6 pick in the 2021 NBA draft averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 assists and 1.2 steals in five games, and built chemistry with Chet Holmgren, whom the Thunder took with the No.2 pick in last month’s draft.

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