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A star for the ages

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MARCH 24, 2015 5:00 AM

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Aaron White’s career came to a bittersweet end Sunday.

As the Hawkeyes walked off the court in Seattle following their 87-68 loss to Gonzaga, White shook hands with the Bulldogs, then headed for the locker room amid a standing ovation from the Hawkeye faithful in attendance.

Unlike Senior Day, a mutual love-fest that concluded with White acknowledging the crowd with outstretched arms in front of the scorers’ table, White walked off the floor with his head down and a towel draped over his neck. Not oblivious but unresponsive to his surroundings.

He left Iowa as quietly as he arrived.

That’s only true to an extent, though. Nothing about White’s play in last month was quiet. He dominated. Simple as that. As a result, Iowa basketball is back, metaphorically speaking. Fans will look forward to next season with optimism. 

Much of that can be attributed to White. Yes, the contributions of players before him cannot be understated, nor should the contributions of current players not named White, including fellow seniors Gabe Olaseni, Josh Oglesby, and Kyle Denning. And without head coach Fran McCaffery and his plan, White probably would have never became a Hawkeye.

But whatever becomes of the Iowa program in years from now will be traced back to White and the foundation that his teams created.

He gave Hawkeye fans a lot in his four years at Iowa. A simple rundown of the stat sheet will prove that.

He’s the program’s second-leading scorer, third in rebounds, had countless crowd-raising alley oops, and an unhealthy number of free throws. But amid the stats, White and Company gave something to Iowa fans that had been lacking for a long time.

Joy.

Sure, the team last year was fun. But even then, people — including me — were busy picking it apart. McCaffery trusted his bench too much. The team fell apart in the second half. It rarely stopped.

But one look at Twitter or to the stands in KeyArena before or after the game Sunday, and one can be sure that there was joy among Iowa fans, even if the criticisms weren’t completely absent.

He helped a program get back on track and became one of the greats as well.

There’s no guarantee that Iowa will be back in the NCAA Tournament next year or the year after that. Maybe the program falls off. Maybe it doesn’t bring in recruits. Maybe McCaffery’s teams stop improving.

But that seems unlikely after this season.

The mark of great college programs isn’t necessarily how successful they are in one particular season. It’s how they deal with turnover. No matter the university, every coach losses a key player at least every four years. It’s unavoidable.

At the start of this season, replacing Devyn Marble seemed difficult. About eight months from now, replacing the do-everything White will seem daunting.

But the foundation is there. And that might be the most important part.

After Senior Day, which White called a day he will always remember, he was asked about his relationship with Roy Marble, who had been honored that day.

White said it was good. That they had talked frequently. And that White had learned plenty from the only player at Iowa to score more points than him. He just wished that Iowa hadn’t stopped at honoring him. He wished that Marble’s jersey were retired that day.

He wasn’t the only one who thought that. Marble’s jersey should have been, and still should be, retired.

Before we know it, maybe White’s will, too.

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


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