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White continues ascent in Iowa's win over Penn State

BY BEN SCHUFF | FEBRUARY 06, 2012 7:20 AM

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Aaron White's confidence is growing.

His teammates can see it happening.

The freshman's continued development has been a consistent part of Iowa's up-and-down season. From averaging slightly more than 16 minutes a game as a reserve in Iowa's first five contests to playing a career-high 32 minutes as a starter on Feb. 4, White is showing why he had seven schools offer him scholarships coming out of Strongsville (Ohio) High.

That development was on full display in Iowa's 77-64 win over Penn State on Feb. 4, when he played arguably his most complete game as a Hawkeye. White scored 17 points and recorded 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. The assist and block totals against the Nittany Lions were both career-highs, while he was 2 points and 1 rebound shy of career marks for those stats.

His aggressive play drew the praise of teammates and opponents alike. Iowa forward Zach McCabe said White was "an animal out there," and Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers described him as "that junkyard dog."

But more importantly for Iowa will be White's ability to sustain a consistent effort like he did for all 32 minutes he was on the floor against Penn State.

That was something Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery wasn't accustomed to seeing.

After Iowa beat Central Arkansas on Dec. 19 — a game White in which scored 17 points in 21 minutes — McCaffery said, "The only time he really struggles is due to fatigue."

The second-year head coach didn't express that sentiment after the win over the Nittany Lions.

"I think from a stamina standpoint, he was a different person," McCaffery said. "I don't know if I could have played him 32 minutes in an intense game eight weeks ago."

White made his third start of the year against Penn State after being inserted into the starting lineup on Jan. 29, when Iowa traveled to Indiana.

Guard Matt Gatens said he's been impressed with White's growth since that time — and even dating back to earlier in the season.

"He's more confident in the moves he makes," Gatens said when asked how the 6-8 forward's game has improved. "The confidence is flowing with the kid.

"He's going to be a special player."

That confidence level has resulted in more consistent play. White posted double-figure points in nine of Iowa's last 14 games, and he scored 9 points in three of the five games he didn't.

"He's been huge," Gatens said. "He just continues to grow. He's a hungry kid. He's stepped up big-time in these Big Ten games."

Perhaps equally as important as the numbers he's produced has been the fact White replaced Melsahn Basabe as a starter, supplanting someone who hasn't played like the All-Big Ten Freshman selection he was a year ago.

Basabe's lack of production opened the door for White, who could quite possibly find himself on that same all-freshman team at the end of this year.

"Coach always brought [my stamina] up," White said after the Penn State victory. "I kind of took that to heart and wanted to prove — not only to Coach, but to everyone on the team — that I could play 30 minutes at this level and withstand it."

When a reporter followed up White's answer by asking if he could play all 40 minutes — something Penn State guard Tim Frazier did against Iowa — White laughed.

"Can I play 40? I think eventually I'll get there. Another eight minutes, what is that, right?" White said.

Follow DI men's basketball reporter Ben Schuff on Twitter.


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