Payne: Iowa needs a speedy recovery from White


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A week ago, things were going well for the Iowa men’s basketball team. After a few strong wins, the Hawkeyes were ranked for the first time since last season and were riding the momentum of a 4-1 Big Ten record heading into a matchup with Wisconsin.

They were emasculated in that game, then lost again on Jan. 24 at Purdue, brining Iowa to 13-7 overall and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.

But the biggest story from the latter contest is Aaron White’s shoulder injury. The senior collided with Kendall Stephens, stayed in the game, left a few moments later, and never returned.

“He was in a lot of discomfort,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “If that kid could have come back in the game, he would have come back in.”

Now, seven days after moving into the top 25, numerous questions surround the Hawkeyes, with White’s absence being the biggest one.

His status is somewhat unclear — Iowa called the injury a “stinger,” and after the game, White said he didn’t think anything broke, although he appeared to be in a great deal of pain — and it’s possible we won’t know if the senior will play against at home Wisconsin Saturday until later in the week.

One thing is clear, however — losing White for any period of time is obviously a huge blow to the Hawkeyes.

But how much of a loss is it? According to Basketball-Reference, White’s use percentage — a statistic that estimates the percentage of team plays used by a player while he’s on the floor — is 23.6 percent, the highest on Iowa’s roster. Of the nine players Iowa uses regularly, Jarrod Uthoff is next at 22.6 percent. Dom Uhl, who would likely eat a good portion of White’s minutes, has a 16.6 use percentage.

Of those players, White also leads in offensive rating, defensive rating, points produced, attempted free throws, points per game, and rebounds per game. And despite sitting the majority of the game, he’s still played only one minute fewer than Uthoff (now Iowa’s leader in minutes) this season, by the way.

There are also the intangibles, White is as smart as anyone on Iowa’s roster, and as cliché as it may sound, he truly does play the role of coach on the floor. He’s Iowa’s leader, and McCaffery has called the Hawkeyes White’s team.

It would be virtually impossible to replace the things White brings to the table for Iowa, but based on the Hawkeyes’ loss to Purdue, it could open the door for other players.

Mike Gesell finished with 18 points and 3 assists and turnovers. Late in the second half, when Iowa was trying to claw its way back in front of the Boilermakers, the junior scored 12-consecutive points.

As McCaffery said following the loss, Gesell scored in a variety of ways, from both inside and outside. That’s not to say Gesell wouldn’t have been so successful if White had been on the floor, but he isn’t likely to do have that strong of a performance every game, and for Iowa’s sake, hopefully, he won’t have to.

While we await White’s status, Iowa should hope for a quick recovery and return to the court, because weeks such as the one that just ended are exactly what Iowa must avoid.

And more than any player, Iowa needs White to avoid them.

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