IOWA CITY, Ia. Aaron White’s No.1 fan lives in Medina, Ohio.
And she’s a bit biased.
Sue White is Aaron’s grandmother, and they talk after every Iowa basketball game.
“She’s always on my mind before games,” said Aaron, the Hawkeyes’ freshman forward. “Definitely my No.1 fan.”
Sue used to be No.1 on a short list, but it’s growing by the game. A third-team all-stater and lightly recruited out of Strongsville, Ohio, Aaron has introduced himself to the Big Ten in a big way.
“I love that kid,” said Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, whose team hosts the Hawkeyes at 7p.m. today at Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa. “He’s one of those guys you hate to play against, but you’d love to have on your team.”
White, averaging 10.2 points and a team-best 5.2 rebounds, has been one of the feel-good stories of the Big Ten season.
“I’m not surprised at what he’s done at Iowa,” said Joe Lynch, White’s coach at Strongsville High School. “But I’m in the minority, to be honest with you.”
Some colleges came to take a look, and moved on.
“Going into his senior year, Wisconsin was very active, so was Penn State,” Lynch said. “Michigan came down, and Michigan State. There were other kids they were looking at, maybe they settled on them. It came down to their best guesstimate. But I don’t know how you could look at this kid’s skill level and say, ‘My gosh, this kid’s going to play if he doesn’t get bounced all over the court.’”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta took a look, too.
“We were very aware of Aaron,” Matta said. “We just didn’t need that position from our standpoint.”
But freshly hired Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was interested, after being tipped off to White by assistant Sherm Dillard, who saw Aaron play with his Ohio Basketball Club AAU team.
“Sherm said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to watch this kid,’” McCaffery said. “He loved him.”
So did McCaffery, who didn’t care that no one else in the Big Ten was on his trail.
“I don’t care who else is recruiting him,” McCaffery said. “I mean, some of the best players I’ve recruited didn’t have much. And sometimes we’ve gotten great recruits that didn’t amount to much. I feel pretty confident that if I go watch Aaron White play, I can tell if he can play in the Big Ten. I mean, he can play in the NBA. So he certainly can play in the Big Ten.”
Lynch, who elevated White and Ray Hamilton, now a freshman tight end on the Iowa football team, to the varsity as ninth-graders, thought so, too.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that the skill and the motivation and the abilities were all there,” Lynch said.
White was an Associated Press third-team all-state pick in Ohio. All five players on the first team went to DivisionI programs. So did four members of the 10-player second team. Only one of those players, first-teamer Trey Burke of Michigan, is averaging more points.
Numerous Big Ten coaches have praised White this season.
“We have some big-time coaches in this conference, so that means a lot that they like what I’ve been doing,” White said. “I couldn’t be happier than I am here. I’m just thankful that coach McCaffery believed in me.”
White, who picked Iowa over Duquesne and was also offered by Boston College and mid-majors such as George Mason, plays like he has something to prove.
“I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder, a little bit of an underdog,” White said. “I’ve embraced that role.”
Lynch is enjoying White’s success. And he’s still shaking his head.
“Did people miss the boat on him?” Lynch said. “Yeah, a lot of them missed the boat.”
What Big Ten coaches are saying about Iowa freshman Aaron White
PATRICK CHAMBERS, Penn State
“I heard a lot about him before the season. Trey Lewis, who is on my team, played against him in high school and he just dominated them. He’s relentless. He’s got a high motor. We all love that terminology.”
TOM IZZO, Michigan State
“That No. 30 for them, White, is going to be a helluva player.”
THAD MATTA, Ohio State
“I knew he was a very good player and was going to be a great college player. It’s exciting to see him have the freshman year he’s having.”
FRAN McCAFFERY, Iowa
“You’re never 100 percent sure how hard of a worker you have until you get him. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had. So not only are we excited about where he is, but I think that bodes well for where he’s headed.”
MATT PAINTER, Purdue
“White is dangerous. He’s 6-9 and he can drive it, shoot it and he’s around the basket.”
BILL CARMODY, Northwestern
“He does everything pretty well. He’s pretty comfortable anywhere on the court when he has the basketball, I’d say. Inside, outside, passing, shooting, and putting it on the ground a little, too. So he’s a very good all-around player who I think will only get better.”
TODAY’S IOWA MEN’S BASKETBALL GAME
WHO: Iowa (13-12, 5-7 Big Ten) at Penn State (11-15, 3-10)
WHERE: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, Pa.
TIPOFF: 7 p.m.
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040), Des Moines, and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Iowa — Matt Gatens 14.0 ppg, Aaron White 5.3 rpg, Bryce Cartwright 4.3 apg; For Penn State — Tim Frazier 18.5 ppg, Frazier 5.0 rpg, Frazier 6.4 apg.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Tonight will be Iowa’s second game in 12 days. The team finishes the regular season with six games in 16 days.
ABOUT THE NITTANY LIONS: Frazier is coming off a 23-point, 10-rebound, nine-assist effort in a win against Nebraska.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Penn State has won the last four games in the series played at the Bryce Jordan Center. Iowa’s last victory came in 2006, 80-76.
— Rick Brown
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball