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DI Freshman of the Year: Aaron White

BY SETH ROBERTS | MAY 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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Aaron White didn't look like he had been ready to shoot when he tossed up an off-balance hook shot in the second half of Iowa's first-round NIT game against Dayton on March 13.

 

It didn't matter. The ball kissed off the glass and through the twine.

Two points.

Matt Gatens drove through the lane on Iowa's next possession and threw a lay-up attempt at the rim. But Gatens put too much on the ball, and it ricocheted off the bucket.

It didn't matter. White was there to snatch the offensive board and flush it through the hole in one motion.

Four points.

The freshman from Ohio caught the ball behind the 3-point line on the Hawkeyes' next trip and saw Dayton's Luke Fabrizius fly out at him with his arms raised.

It didn't matter. White buried the triple and held his right hand aloft as he jogged back down the court.

Seven points — in just a hair over one minute.

"He's really special," head coach Fran McCaffery said following the team's 84-75 win. "We knew we had something in Aaron White when we signed him … very few freshmen at this level accomplish what he has accomplished. You just don't consistently put up those kinds of numbers."

White finished the game with 25 points and 11 boards. He scored 22 with 8 rebounds in Iowa's next contest, a 108-97 loss to Oregon.

The gangly 6-8 forward's 47 points and 19 rebounds in the NIT was the final flourish in a campaign that saw him get named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team and the Kyle Macy Freshman All-America squad. White's consistency — he scored double-digit points in 18 of Iowa's 35 games and led the team in rebounding with 5.7 per contest — allowed him to play his way into McCaffery's starting lineup and had opposing coaches raving.

"That No. 30 for them, White, is going to be a hell of a player," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said after the Strongsville, Ohio, native scored 15 points and provided Iowa's few on-court fireworks in a 95-61 loss to the Spartans in January.

"I don't know how he got out of the state of Ohio," Dayton coach Archie Miller said in March. "Somebody needs to explain that to me."

Perhaps it's because he only received one scholarship offer from the state, according to Rivals.com. White was a three-star recruit at Strongsville High, but Miami of Ohio was the only in-state school to give him an offer.

So he ended up at Iowa, picking the Hawkeyes ahead of schools such as Northwestern, Boston College, Duquesne, and St. Bonaventure.

And it didn't take long for him to make an impression; he poured in 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the Hawkeyes' season-opening 96-53 thrashing of Chicago State.

"He's a complete player," McCaffery said after the game. "… When you have a 6-8 player who understands how to play, dribble, pass, shoot, post up, play in the paint — he's got feel. He doesn't rattle. There's no panic in him at all."

That adaptability and completeness quickly made him a fan favorite in Iowa City and spurred a flurry of nicknames for the redheaded forward.

The Ginga Ninja. Whitey. The Dunkin' Tomato.

But the Daily Iowan's Freshman of the Year didn't seem to let the attention go to his head.

"Just trying to take advantage of my height and my energy down low, trying to get offensive rebounds," he said when asked about his 7-point run against Dayton. "… A lot of it is because teammates keep me open."

DI reporter Jordan Garretson contributed to this article.

Follow DI Sports Editor Seth Roberts on Twitter.


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