The Rise of Aaron White and the Iowa HawkeyesPosted by Brendan Brody on October 28th, 2013
College basketball junkies like myself stretch for almost anything hoops-related to keep us going in the offseason. The summer months can be especially cruel. So when we find out about things like the World University Games, we pay attention. We check the rosters when the tryouts are over and usually there are some surprises. Iowa’s Aaron White was one of these surprises. Outside of those that follow the B1G on a regular basis, not many casual fans know about White. But with Iowa getting its share of (justifiable) hype given how the Hawkeyes finished last season, and what they have coming back, White has a chance to become a household name with the program rejoining national relevance. He doesn’t have to be a superstar, but if he can make incremental improvements along with a couple of the other returnees, Iowa will no doubt challenge for a top quarter finish in the league, and with it, a high seed in the NCAAs.
White had a nice sophomore year, but nothing to make someone think he was necessarily ready to stand alongside other World University Games players like Doug McDermott, Luke Hancock, and conference names like Yogi Ferrell and Adreian Payne. He led Iowa in rebounding at 6.2 boards per game, and was the second leading scorer with an average of 12.8 PPG. These are nice numbers, but not anything to get too excited about. Where he really shined last year, though, was in getting to the free throw line. He shot an astronomical 258 free throws last season, good for 6.8 attempts per game, and over 40 minutes per contest, he drew an average of 6.5 fouls per game.
With the new rule changes de-emphasizing physical play benefiting players who are already very good at getting to the charity stripe, White stands to explode in production this season. He is sneaky athletic, very aggressive on the offensive end, and can knock down jumpers from the mid-range with regularity. His aggressiveness is a controlled one, as he also averaged fewer than two turnovers per game and did not force many shots last year. He has also shown an ability to pick his spots, deferring to someone like Roy Devyn Marble when he needs to. One question mark is his three-point shooting. White needs to either improve his 15-of-66 shooting from three, or simply not take as many threes if he’s not going to make more than 23 percent of them. Blemishes with his deep shooting aside, he brings more positives than negatives when he’s out on the floor. Iowa can play him at the three, four, or even as a small-ball five, depending on its match-ups. He’s already shown with his ability to rebound that he can function as the biggest guy on the floor.
So what does everything written here mean? It means that Iowa is going to be really good this year, and a player like White is going to make it happen. Usually when players affiliate with USA Basketball, they come back from such an experience with improved skills from practicing with and playing against other elite players. More importantly, it’s a tremendous confidence boost to simply make the team. As a junior, White is poised to become the best player on the Hawkeyes. Under Fran McCaffery’s direction, Iowa fits the profile of a program on the rise, and with an improved White and the other significant pieces returning, it will surprise nobody that the Hawkeyes will be a factor in this year’s B1G race.