Aaron White loved LeBron James when he played for his favorite NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. When James pulled up stakes and headed for Miami, Iowa’s forward lost some of that passion.
“I’m not going to lie: When he left, I wasn’t a big fan,” said the 6-foot-9 senior from Strongsville, Ohio. “But I respect basketball and his greatness too much to hate on him. I love watching him play.”
On Wednesday, White learned he is one of 30 collegians invited to the LeBron James Skills Academy starting July 9 in Las Vegas. The event could enhance White’s NBA chances since league scouts will be in attendance. NBA personnel were part of the selection committee that picked the participants.
When Devyn Marble was selected by Orlando in the second round of last month’s NBA Draft, he became the first Hawkeye player drafted since 2007. Iowa hasn’t had a player taken in back-to-back years since 1998 and 1999.
“My goal since I was a little kid was to get drafted,” White said. “I think if everything goes well this year, I’ll be in a good position. And that really helps the program, the more you see Iowa on the draft board or going to skills academies or top Nike camps. It’s free publicity for coach Fran (McCaffery) and our program.”
The first player in Iowa history to reach 1,300 points, 650 rebounds, 100 assists and 100 steals before his senior season, White also participated in the Kevin Durant Skills Academy last month in Washington, D.C. While there he watched Durant, the NBA’s reigning MVP, do an individual workout.
“Obviously he’s one of the top two or three players in the world, but he’s not satisfied with that,” White said. “That’s really motivating to me, a kid who wants to be in the NBA some day.”
McCaffery expects White to be an improved version of the player who averaged 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds as a junior.
“It will be his team,” McCaffery said. “He’ll be a great leader for us.”
White embraces the leadership role McCaffery wants him to fill.
“I’m going to do my best to lead this team to have a great year and, for me, to have a great final season,” White said.
Iowa made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 last season, but lost seven of its last eight games. White said that newfound national publicity and all the talk of a potential Final Four played a factor in the swoon.
“It was a big learning curve for us,” White said.
White expects the Hawkeyes to do a better job of living up to expectations in 2014-15. He hopes his improvement, especially shooting from the perimeter, helps make that happen. White shot just 25.8 percent from 3 last season, on just 31 attempts.
“I’m going to try and be a little more aggressive on offense,” White said. “Last year, I think I deferred too much. I need to be more aggressive looking for my offense and taking open shots. Late in the season, I lost my confidence shooting it. This year I’m going to let it fly, and shoot when I’m open.”