Aaron White needn’t look any further than a few lockers down to see what can happen to a college basketball player in his sophomore season.
White’s University of Iowa teammate, Melsahn Basabe, had a breakout freshman season in 2010-11, averaging 11 points per game and leading the Hawkeyes in rebounding.
Last season as a sophomore, an overweight and perhaps under-motivated Basabe declined drastically in productivity. Meanwhile, a new freshman, White, averaged 11 points per game and led the Hawkeyes in rebounding.
White is acutely aware of the sophomore slump that afflicted Basabe and others, and he’s determined that the same thing will not happen to him.
“With other guys, it’s really a mental thing,” White said. “They let expectations get to them. They start reading what other people are writing and saying about them … It’s something that doesn’t really affect me. I’m going to come in here and do what I do no matter what anybody says.”
By all appearances, the
6-foot-8, 218-pound White brims with humility as he embarks on his second season.
He shrugs off the successes of a year ago and readily offers up a laundry list of shortcomings.
He said he wasn’t really prepared for what he encountered last season. He wasn’t in good enough condition. He didn’t play well enough at the defensive end of the court. He wasn’t diverse enough offensively.
“I took some plays off defensively, and I wasn’t as consistent as I needed to be,” he said. “I probably wasn’t in good enough shape to guard the way I had to.”
White said he feels much more ready for this season, and he has tried to add variety to his offensive game, knowing that opponents now have a scouting report on what he can do.
White’s role on the team also figures to change. He played almost exclusively at the power forward or “four” position last season. But with the addition of 7-foot-1 freshman Adam Woodbury, the development of 6-10 Gabe Olaseni and the anticipated re-emergence of a slimmed-down Basabe, White should see considerable playing time at small forward.
“He likes that, but he was a difficult cover for most fours, no matter who we were to play against,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “So he’s really worked on his pull-up jumper, coming off screens, hitting jump shots, shot fake, drive.
“He needs to finish a little bit better, because he can get to the rim any time he wants and his stamina has to improve.”
White, who came to Iowa expecting to be a small forward, said he thinks he can create matchup problems for opposing teams who might be forced to defend him with players three or more inches shorter. But he knows he also needs to adjust to guarding quicker players at the defensive end.
“He’s going to have to guard threes and fours,” McCaffery added, “and I’d like to see him step up offensively and take those 11 points to 15 or 16, which I think he’s capable of doing.”
White agrees. It’s all a matter of ignoring the press clippings and not listening to observers who are starting to speak of him as one of the Big Ten’s elite. That’s premature, he said.
“I’m not saying I don’t appreciate that, but you can’t let that get to you …” he said. “Just come to work hard and realize you really haven’t done anything yet.”