March 21, 2015
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By STEVE ROE
SEATTLE — Just how good has Aaron White been for the Iowa Hawkeyes?
As Iowa (22-11) prepares for its third round contest against second-seeded Gonzaga (33-2) in the NCAA Tournament Sunday evening (6:10 p.m. CT, TBS) in Seattle, the numbers can’t tell the entire story on the Hawkeye senior from Strongsville, Ohio.
White has led the way as the Hawkeyes have won seven of their last eight games. During that stretch he is averaging 21.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. White is shooting 56.6 percent from the field, including 11-of-14 shooting in Iowa’s 83-52 win over Davidson. He is shooting 58.8 percent from three-point range and 85.2 percent from the foul line. No player in the Big Ten has scored more points per game over the last month.
While the statistics tell most of the story, they don’t tell the public what White has meant to his teammates, and the Hawkeye coaching staff. Following a pair of frustrating narrow losses in Big Ten play, White put the Hawkeyes on his back and has led the team to within one victory of Iowa’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 1999.
“I think after the season I will look back and realize what an amazing season he has had,” said junior guard Mike Gesell. “He battles on every possession; he never takes a play off. That is what allows him to put up the numbers he has this season. He’s one of the best teammates I have ever played with and I love playing with him.”
Others outside the program took notice as White led Iowa to six straight wins to close the Big Ten regular season. He was named first team All-Big Ten by both league coaches and media, and was named to the USBWA All-District VI team, in a district that includes players from the states of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
“We thought Aaron was going to be great when we recruited him,” said Fran McCaffery. “We believed in him. I knew he was going to be really good, but when he got to campus and started working as hard as he did, both in the weight room, in our practice facility, which had just opened, you knew we got something special here. So the fact that he’s our second leading scorer in school history is not a surprise.”
White’s numbers, for his senior season and his career, rank among the best ever at Iowa, and in the Big Ten. He is second at Iowa in scoring (1,840) and third in rebounds (900). As important as those numbers are, he also ranks first at Iowa in games played (139 and counting). He has been durable, and dependable, throughout his career. He is one of only 12 players in Big Ten Conference history to amass more than 1,800 points and 900 rebounds.
“I love the versatility of Aaron’s game, he’s an old fashioned player,” said P.J. Carlesimo, the former college and NBA coach who is working the NCAA Tournament games in Seattle for Westwood One radio. “To me, that’s a very high compliment. He does so many things well.”
As a team leader, he has been known to take over a game, as he did in Friday’s win over Davidson. Iowa led 49-40 with 14:38 remaining when White took over, scoring 13 consecutive points for the Hawkeyes. By the time that stretch was over, the Hawkeyes held a 62-41 advantage with 11 minutes remaining. His line on the night included 26 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal and a rebound. He is just the second Hawkeye ever (Roy Marble, 1987) to post those numbers in an NCAA Tournament contest.
As a junior, White was the only player in the nation to shoot better than 55 percent from the field and 80 percent from the foul line. For good measure, he is also the only player in the nation to better those percentages this year as well. He will become the only Hawkeye ever to lead the team in rebounding all four years of his career.
“It’s not until after a game that you realize what he has done. Scoring 13 straight points like that in a game, that was spectacular,” said senior center Gabriel Olaseni. “He makes you proud to have a teammate like him. Being his teammate, you see the work he has put in, watching film, he never takes a day off. You see from behind the scenes the progress of his work. I am really proud and thankful for the effect he has had on our team.”
As a player who joined the Hawkeye basketball program with little fanfare, White has taken every advantage of the opportunity and established himself as one of the best players in the history of the program. He will leave his name all over the Iowa record book. More importantly, he has earned the respect of his teammates, coaches, and Hawkeye fans everywhere.