Basketball: Iowa's Aaron White Goes From Locked Out to Leader

By Scott Dochterman, Reporter

Iowa forward Aaron White applauds after an NCAA college basketball game against Dayton in the first round of the NIT, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Iowa City, Iowa. White scored 25 points as Iowa won 84-75. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By Grant Burkhardt

NORTH LIBERTY — Aaron White found himself locked in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and left Josh Oglesby without a roommate for the night.

White, an incoming Iowa sophomore, started working out at Iowa’s new practice facility after 10 p.m. one night last summer. When he tried to re-enter Iowa’s locker room, his access was denied by the locks that use hand geometry.

“My phone had died. It was raining outside,” White said. “I knew how to get into the opposing locker room and kind of spent the night.

“The cleaning people working in the morning woke me up and said they were worried about me because they saw my stuff in the locker room. Good story to start off my career here.”

Oglesby, who roomed with White last year, called it “one of the funniest stories I’ve heard actually.” Their coach, Fran McCaffery, said the story speaks to White’s dedication to improvement.

“He was here 10 days and shot 13,000 shots,” McCaffery said in May. “That shows you the commitment that he has. He also got locked in the building one night. He didn’t realize it locks itself. He spent the night in the locker room.”

White, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, went from virtual obscurity to the Big Ten limelight in a three-month span last year. White became the first Iowa freshman basketball player since World War II to score at least 19 points in his debut. It was impressive, but it became a footnote once he established himself in Big Ten play.

Eleven different times White scored in double figures against conference opponents. He started 13 games, including 11 in Big Ten play. He averaged 11.1 points a game overall and 11.3 points in the league. It was a successful year for the Strongsville, Ohio native, who was recruited by only one other Big Ten program yet was named to the league’s all-freshman team.

“I sat down with coach McCaffery and he was proud of how I played my freshman year coming in with no expectations and he was happy with how I did,” White said. “He believed in me the whole way.”

White became a force in the postseason. He posted a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds in Iowa’s 84-75 NIT opening win against Dayton. In the Hawkeyes’ second-round loss to Oregon, White scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

But those games serve strictly as a launching point for White going forward. He’s gained all-around strength this offseason so he can better compete against Big Ten opponents in the post. He also focused on making subtle improvements in his offensive game to take it to another level.

“(McCaffery and I) talked about getting better on the defensive end, getting stronger in my legs so I can stay down in a stance or play 25-plus minutes a game,” White said. “Offensively, I was kind of limited. I either dunked it or a shot a 3. So I’ve really been getting the gym and not only making sure I’m actually making those 3s I’ve been taking. I’ve also kind of developed a pull-up game a little bit of a around-the-hoop, tough shots, which I didn’t have last year. That’s what I’m trying to add, just keep going.”

White wants to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump at all costs.

“My freshman-to-my-sophomore year is big,” he said. “You’ve seen people in the past kind of slip their sophomore year instead of get better. I want the opposite of that, just keep growing, keep getting better and keep building this program.”

Oglesby, who also is a sophomore, said White has developed a leadership role on the team this offseason.

“Whitey texts us and asks us if we want to play open gym,” Oglesby said. “When we’re not getting after it in open gym, he’s the first one who says something.”

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