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Q&A: Catching up with Aaron White

BY DI STAFF | JULY 08, 2015 5:00 AM

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The DI caught up with Aaron White, who is embarking on what he hopes will be an NBA journey after being selected in the second round of the NBA draft on June 25 by the Washington Wizards. The Ohio native ranks first all-time in Hawkeye history in games played, second in scoring, and third in rebounds. He guided Iowa to its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2001 and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in his senior season.

DI: What was it like being drafted?

White: Unreal. It’s something I’ve watched since I was a little kid. And I was always that kid who stayed up and watched every pick of the draft. I just loved it. And obviously, once I put myself into a position for my named to be called, it was a surreal moment … a lot of hard work went into one specific goal. Obviously, that goal was just to be picked, and from there, my goal is to play in the NBA for a lot of years. Now, it’s up to me to prove I can be an asset on the floor and help the organization win.

DI: What’s more daunting, preparing to be a father or preparing for the NBA?

White: [Laughs] I would say probably being a father because it’s something I have no experience with. The NBA is a man’s league, and it’s the best of the best in terms of basketball. But basketball’s something that I’ve been doing my whole life, and it’s just something that I think that I’m going to eventually catch on and learn. I’m going to do the same thing in fatherhood, but fatherhood will be a whole new experience where I don’t have any experience to rest on. It’s exciting, though. I can’t wait to be a father and play in the NBA.

DI: What do you think your legacy as a Hawkeye is?

White: Hardworker. Someone who didn’t let doubters nor the perfect situation affect me. It’s been well-documented that I wasn’t recruited very high, and it probably was deserving. I wasn’t that great in high school, but it’s just something I kept working at. I kept getting better; I kept learning. If you put forward hard work and determination, and you have a drive and a passion for something, you can really pretty much do anything. So I think if you look back on my career, and if people talk about me in the future as a Hawkeye, that’s what I want them to remember. That I was determined, and I had a passion, and I willed myself into what I became. I wasn’t that way when I stepped on campus. Coach McCaffery could lie to you and tell you he thought that would happen, but he didn’t, because I didn’t even think it would happen. Hard work and determination can really do wonders, and it did for me.

DI: When scouts critique such things as defense and body build, how do you respond?

White: It’s another level. There are always going to be critics. There are always going to be naysayers — people who want to pick apart your game and talk more about your weaknesses than your strengths. My job is to not pay attention to that and continue to become the best basketball player I can be. So I know what my weaknesses are, and I do everything I can to improve those, each off-season, each practice, whatever it may be. The key for me is to continue to learn, and to grow, and continue to have that determination and that will to keep getting better. I sincerely love the game of basketball, and I’ll do whatever it takes to play this game for a long time … that’s my mindset. And I’m not going to let anybody determine anything else.

DI: What parts of your game are you looking to improve?

White: I need to continue to do what I do best. My versatility, IQ, and feel for the game will help me at this level. At the same time I need to continue to get stronger so I can guard 4s, continue to get a little bit quicker so I can switch out and help on the pick-and-roll and guard some quicker 3s. Other than that, I just need to continue to do what I do well and just try to fill a role for my team. The NBA is a role-player’s game. You’ve got ample superstars, maybe more, who can do very special things with the basketball. And then everyone else just kind of fills the roles around them, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Fill a niche, fill a role, and help the Wizards win.

DI: What if you don’t make the roster?

White: We haven’t exactly talked about it. I know a lot of people online are writing about going overseas, and that is something that the GM has mentioned to my agent and me. They asked me in the pre-draft process if that was something I’d be willing to do if I didn’t make the roster this upcoming season. And it is something I’m willing to do. But I don’t really want to think that far ahead. I want to think about this minicamp, this Summer League roster, and if I don’t [make it], we’ll go from there. But if I don’t, that won’t sway me one way or the other, I’m still going to be determined to play in the NBA, play for the Wizards, and continue to get better and grow.

DI: What’s it like practicing with NBA talent?

White: It’s cool. Two days in, and I feel like I belong, so that’s a good feeling. I definitely feel like I can affect the game in the good way based on what the coaches want from us; obviously, it’s a whole new system for all of us. It’s still basketball. It’s still reads, and making plays, and playing smart, taking care of the ball. If you’re open, take the shot, if not, move it on, stuff like that. It’s not anything too crazy, but obviously, it is a high level of talent and intense atmosphere because it is the highest level.

DI: With Devyn Marble’s selection in the 2014 draft, and yours this year, it marks the first time since ’98-99 that Iowa has had two players drafted in back-to-back years. What does that tell you about where the program is now versus where it was when you came in as a freshman?

White: It shows that it’s headed in the right direction. It shows that Coach McCaffery knows how to recruit and knows how to have success within his system. It’s player-friendly; you kind of can play, and make reads, and make plays how you see it. So I think that’s something that helps in the situation of showcasing talent. As we continue to improve as a program, he’ll continue to get high-level talent, and hopefully, that streak can continue, and we can continue to produce NBA players through the university.

DI: In your time at Iowa, what’s your favorite memory?

White: I would say walking off the floor on Senior Night; there was something that kind of hit me. Everything that we accomplished as a program and I accomplished personally and the steps I made from freshman year to senior year. Not only me but doing it with Gabe [Olaseni], Josh [Oglesby], and Kyle [Denning] all four years. It was just a great feeling. The day just went perfect, and it was just one of those moments where you kind of just felt like this is how it’s supposed to end.

DI: What do you want your NBA legacy to be?

White: That’s a good question; I mean it’s really early. I haven’t even thought that far down the line. Right now, I want to be a great teammate, a great player within an organization, and a winner. As I get more comfortable and more confident in what my role will be for this team, my goals will increase. But right now I want to help a team win, be a great teammate, and do want ever the organization wants me.


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