Aaron White doesn’t look or act differently than a year ago, even though the circumstances are different.
His body might be slightly more sculpted after a year of weight training at the Big Ten level.
But he still keeps his red hair shaved to a crew cut. He still speaks softly. And he still approaches a game in the Prime Time League with the same determination and focus as a year ago, proving that success hasn’t spoiled him.
“Every time you step on the court you want to win,” White said just minutes after scoring 22 points during a PTL game Sunday. “So it’s no different from whether it’s a Prime Time game or a Big Ten conference game.”
It’s that no-nonsense attitude, coupled with a diverse skill set that helped the 6-foot-8 White have a breakout freshman season last winter as a member of the Iowa basketball team.
The Strongsville, Ohio, native now faces the challenge of getting better and not resting on what he accomplished last season when White finished as Iowa’s leading rebounder, its second leading shot blocker and its third leading scorer.
And he’ll face it as a marked man on a team that’s coming off its first winning season since the 2006-07 campaign.
Or, at least White figures he’ll be a marked man, especially with guards Matt Gatens and Bryce Cartwright having used up their eligibility as seniors this past season.
“You’d have to think so,” White said. “I’d love to say they’re going to guard me the same as they did last year. But that’s not going to happen.
“Matt’s gone. And Bryce is gone. There is going to be a little bit more focus on me.”
White figures the same treatment will be given to junior-to-be guard Devyn Marble, who had his own breakout season for Iowa a last winter.
Gatens was clearly Iowa’s go-to player on offense last season as evidenced by him leading the team in scoring in 27 of 35 games.
But as the season progressed, White and Marble became reliable second and third scoring options. And as a result, Iowa became a better team, finishing 18-17 overall in Fran McCaffery’s second season as coach.
White was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times and he scored in double figures in 16 of the last 25 games. His 199 rebounds are the fourth most by an Iowa freshman and his 389 points rank fifth among Hawkeye rookies.
White finished last season on a roll, combining for 47 points and 19 rebounds in Iowa’s two games against Dayton and Oregon in the National Invitation Tournament.
He knows in order to stay on a role that he has to improve in all areas. Already known for his versatility, White wants to keep building on that reputation.
“I’m just trying to overall tighten up my game and get better,” White said when asked what his focus is this summer. “They’re going to come out and guard me harder than they did last year.
“But I’m more confident this year and I’m trying to bring a different element to my game, shoot it a little bit better. But overall I’m just trying to clean up on offense and playing stronger defense and grow as a player in every way.”
White was the second player for Iowa in the last two seasons to make the Big Ten all-Freshmen team. He was preceded by forward Melshan Basabe.
However, Basabe’s sophomore season wasn’t as successful. He no longer had the luxury of sneaking up on opponents and his game suffered.
White also doesn’t have that luxury anymore after coming to Iowa as a lightly-recruited prospect. But he does have a deep and talented frontline that could make it easier for him to avoid the sophomore jinx.
“It’s only going to help,” White said.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball