White's surge fuels Hawkeyes

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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With time winding down on the shot clock, Aaron White ran off a screen and pulled up from beyond the 3-point arc. He sank the shot, ran back with his arms in the air, three fingers held up on each hand.

It was the last shot of Iowa’s 69-52 win over Northwestern and the last shot he made on his home floor.

Perhaps it’s odd that a career 27.1 percent shooter from 3-point range ended his illustrious Iowa career with a deep bomb. Or maybe it’s more representative of his recent play, in which he has made 8 of his last 13 3-point attempts.

White has never been a marksman from beyond the arc. He’s made a total of just 57 3-pointers in his four years at Iowa, instead opting to make a killing around the rim instead of away from the basket.

But since playing perhaps his worst game of his career almost a month ago (he went 1-for-12 from the field against Northwestern), White has been one of the best players in the Big Ten largely because of his shooting.

“Hard work never goes unnoticed; that’s something you always see,” White said. “Something has paid off throughout the four years here. Shooting all the 3s I’ve shot.

“It’s nice that they’re going in now, but like I said I’m not hunting them, I’m not shooting them because they’re finally going in, I’m just playing my game, which is what coach wants me to do and what my teammates want me to do.”

White’s career at Iowa has been based off efficiency. He’s a career 51.5 percent shooter from the field, mostly because of his shot selection. It’s no surprise he’s approached 3-point shooting the same way.

While the result hasn’t always proven successful, White rarely takes a 3 with a hand in his face. He rarely takes a 3 not in the flow of the offense. And he rarely forces a long-range attempt.

But recently, as White said, “They’re just going in. It’s so simple.”

White’s shot so well from deep the last five games that in that span, his percentage from beyond the arc jumped from 23 percent to its current standing this season at 32.7 percent. That’s a career-high for White by nearly 5 percentage points — he shot 27.9 percent his freshman season.

“The thing about it is, he works on it all the time,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I think sometimes you see [the ball] go in a little bit, he feels more comfortable shooting it. He’s scoring in a lot of different ways now.  I think that’s what really makes it difficult for the opposition.”

That may be the biggest difference with White since the 3s started falling. The mere threat of him shooting from deep has opened up a lot in his game. So much so that Northwestern head coach Chris Collins brought White into the conversation with another well-known player from the Big Ten.

“You know he’s going to get the activity points. You know he’s going to get the lobs, and the transition (points), and the offensive rebounds. For him to give them three 3s, that adds a lot.

“You look at his numbers the past month, he and [Frank] Kaminsky probably have been the two best players in the league the last month of the season.”

Comparing White’s recent play with Kaminsky’s might seem like a bold statement on the surface level. However, the numbers are illuminating.

Kaminsky’s last six games (per game): 21.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 59.5 percent from the field, and 14 total turnovers.

White’s last six games (per game): 21.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1 assist, 55.5 percent from the field, and 1 total turnover.

Obviously, there’s more to a season than six games. However, those numbers are proof of what White can be when knocking down shots from the outside.

“And he’s leading his team, which I really respect,” Collins said. “I love seeing seniors in college; it’s fun to see seniors play with that sense of urgency. Not only play like it, but then their team follows that. And that’s what I’m seeing with this Iowa team.”

The Hawks have followed and as a result are riding a six-game winning streak into postseason play.

It’s not a coincidence that White’s best stretch of his career has coincided with this run.

It’s also provides hope for the future. Hope that Iowa may keep this run going into the Big Ten Tournament this week and subsequently the NCAA Tournament the following week.

But also hope for White’s future, as a big chunk of his NBA potential hinges on his ability to make shots from outside. If he continues to do so, maybe professional teams will take notice, just as Iowa’s opponents have.

“It’s good that they’re going in, but at the same time, I’m not just going to turn into a 3-point shooter and keep shooting them,” White said. “I’m going to shoot them when I’m comfortable, shoot them when I’m open. Hopefully, they keep going in.” 

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa basketball team.

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