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By MATTHEW WEITZEL
IOWA CITY, Iowa — As the University of Iowa men’s basketball team begins Big Ten Conference play, senior Aaron White closes in on a school record.
Through 119 career games, White has made 504 free throws, which ranks second in school history and 11th in Big Ten annals. The Strongsville, Ohio, native is 13 free throws from moving past record holder Roy Marble, who sank 516 free throws in 134 games.
White says he started a routine of practicing free throw shooting late at night in the practice gym as a freshman.
“That’s what I started doing early on in my career,” White said. “It’s all about confidence when shooting free throws. When you see them go in, it not only helps you in the future, but it also helps your overall game seeing the ball go in the basket.”
White says the key for him is to maintain the same routine for every foul shot.
“When I’m at the line, I block out all the noise and free my mind,” said White. “I focus on my routine and try to hit the back of the rim. I hold the ball in the same place and follow the same routine every time.”
White’s free throw percentage has increased each year as a Hawkeye. As a freshman, he was 100-of-143 (.700). During his sophomore campaign, he shot at a 75 percent clip (193-of-258). His 193 free throws rank third for a single-season in school history. Last year, White made 81 percent (130-of-161), while this season he is at 88 percent (69-of-78).
Last year, White was the only player in the country to shoot better than 55 percent from the field and 80 percent from the foul line. White’s mentality is to score any way possible.
“They’re free points; you can’t let them go,” said White. “They call them free throws for a reason, so you try to take advantage of the situation.”
White ranks first in the country by a wide margin of highest percentage of points scored at the free throw line, with 39 percent of his points (69-of-174) coming from the charity stripe.
“I’m not sure if I remember coaching a player who has attempted and made more free throws than Aaron,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “He is an incredibly smart and skilled basketball player, who scores in a variety of ways, one of which is by drawing contact and getting to the free throw line.”
White says it sounds simplistic, but many games are decided based on a team’s success or failures at the free throw line.
“It’s a little thing, but you can win or lose games at the line when you think about it,” said White. “It’s not just the late second ones, but the early ones as well. I was watching a game the other night where a team shot 50 percent from the free throw line, and they ultimately lost in overtime.”
Obtaining the record isn’t something White reflects on right now, but rather what he can do to help his team collect wins.
“The record will mean a lot to me, but that’s something I will look back on after my career is over,” he said.
Iowa returns to action today at Ohio State in an afternoon matinee. Tipoff is slated for noon (CT) in Columbus, Ohio against No. 18/21 Ohio State. The game will be televised on ESPN2.