March 5, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The winningest senior class in Carver-Hawkeye Arena history is set to take center stage Saturday morning on Mediacom Court.
The University of Iowa men’s basketball team’s four seniors — Aaron White, Josh Oglesby, Gabriel Olaseni, and Kyle Denning — joined the program off an 11-win season in UI head coach Fran McCaffery‘s first season. The quartet has won 58 home games since (83 in all) and posted three-straight 20-win seasons heading into the regular season finale against Northwestern.
“People can ask about personal accolades, statistics, and All-Big Ten recognition, but the thing I am proudest of is how much the program has changed in my four years since I have been here,” said White. “I am not putting that on my shoulders or the senior class’ shoulders, but we have been a big part of it.”
White has been the star, racking up 1,768 points and 873 rebounds in 136 career games. He ranks among the top-four in five different statistical categories.
“I am thrilled that his career went the way it did for him because he came in here and didn’t know what it was going to be like,” said McCaffery. “He just wanted a chance to play in the Big Ten, and we gave it to him, and he took full advantage of it.”
The four players joined the program from different regions — White from Ohio, Olaseni from London, Oglesby from Cedar Rapids, and Denning from Cedar Falls as a walk-on — but they developed a tight bond.
“(Our relationship) is unique,” said White. “We’ve become close over the years. We all have different personalities, but mesh well together. We have a common love in basketball, but besides that, we’re like brothers off the court.”
This senior class has been a key culprit in the resurgence of Iowa basketball.
During their first season, Iowa returned to the postseason with a berth into the NIT and the team won 25 games the following season en route to an NIT Championship game appearance in New York City. Last season, Iowa climbed to as high as No. 10 in the nation, won 20 games, and ended a seven-year NCAA Tournament drought.
“I want people to look at us as a group of guys that improved every year, not just statistically,” said Olaseni. “Hopefully they remember us as a group of winners and a group of guys that gave their all to help the team.”
The Hawkeyes are riding a five-game conference winning streak — the first since 1996-97 — entering Saturday’s game against the Wildcats (15-15, 6-11).
Iowa is in a four-way tie for third place (with Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State) in the Big Ten standings with an 11-6 conference record. The top four teams earn the coveted double-bye in the 2015 Big Ten Tournament, which takes place next week in Chicago.
“We have to take care of our business or it won’t matter,” said McCaffery. “If those other teams win, we’re not going to be fourth anyway. The only thing we can do is take care of our business and hope it all works out.”
Saturday’s game, which is sold out, will tipoff at 11:06 a.m. (CT), and it will be televised on BTN with Wayne Randazzo and Stephen Bardo on the call. Senior Day festivities will be held during pregame, and Iowa will recognize all-time leading scorer Roy Marble at halftime.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all year,” said Olaseni. “It’s going to be a fun experience. Hopefully I don’t get too emotional. (My family) hasn’t been to America before so it will be a good experience for them… showing them around and trying to incorporate them into the whole experience of game day.
“It will be a lot of fun, and hopefully we can get a “W” as well.”