IOWA CITY, Ia. – Aaron White never caught Buckeye fever growing up in Strongsville, Ohio, just 130 miles from the Ohio State campus in Columbus.
“I was a pro sports fan,” White said. “The Indians, Cavaliers, Browns. I still am. And now the Hawkeyes are a part of my heart, too.”
White, a 6-foot-8 freshman forward, has averaged 11.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in Big Ten play off the bench during Iowa’s surprising 2-1 start.
That’s the role White will play Saturday when Iowa faces No. 6 Ohio State at 2 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Back home, everyone is looking forward to seeing me play Ohio State,” White said. “Everybody has been watching my games on the Big Ten Network, following me and being real supportive.”
Ohio State, 14-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, rolls into Carver-Hawkeye Arena with an all-America center in Jared Sullinger, one of the nation’s best point guards in Aaron Craft, a great shooter and scorer in William Buford and an underrated scorer in Deshaun Thomas.
Iowa, 10-6 overall after victories in five of its last six games — including back-to-back road triumphs at Wisconsin and Minnesota — owns a winning Big Ten record for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Iowa was the only Big Ten school to offer White a scholarship.
“Every time I step on the floor, I think of that,” White said.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery likes White’s court demeanor, and the fact that he avoids becoming rattled on the floor.
“He doesn’t fight the game,” McCaffery said. “The game comes easy to him. When there’s space, he drives it. When he’s open, he shoots it. He gives it up if he’s covered. He runs the floor when it presents itself.
“He sees the game one play ahead because he’s played so much.”
Stamina has been an issue, though White said he got tired just once in 26 minutes of action at Minnesota on Wednesday.
“Over time, as he matures, gets even stronger, he’ll be that much more effective,” McCaffery said.
White, who is averaging 9.6 points in all games, has a chance to become the 12th Iowa freshman to score in double figures since freshman eligibility was reinstated in 1972-73.
One of those 12, senior Matt Gatens , plays alongside White as a senior with 1,321 career points.
“He’s just got to keep working hard,” Gatens said. “Don’t be satisfied. Right now, not that many people know who you are. It’s their first time playing you. After awhile they get a better feel for who you are and what you can do. They get a lot better scout, and you have to expand your game and keep working on your shot, or in the weight room.
“And he’ll do that. He has a great work ethic.”
At media day in October, White told anyone who asked that his goal was to make an impact on this team.
“I think the coaches believe in me, and my teammates believe in me,” White said.
WHO: Ohio State (14-2, 2-1 Big Ten) at Iowa (10-6, 2-1)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City.
TIPOFF: 2 p.m.
TICKETS: $25 adults,$15 18-under and UI students.
TELEVISION: Big Ten Network.
RADIO: WHO (AM-1040), Des Moines and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Ohio State —Jared Sullinger 16.4 ppg, Sullinger 9.7 rpg, Aaron Craft 5.2 apg; for Iowa — Matt Gatens 13.6 ppg, Melsahn Basabe 6.0 rpg, Bryce Cartwright 4.0 apg.
ABOUT THE BUCKEYES: Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring margin (+22.8),rebounds allowed (28.9), assists (17.2) and turnover margin (6.4).
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Iowa has defeated its last two ranked foes — No. 6 Purdue, 67-65, on March 5, 2011 and at No. 11 Wisconsin, 72-65, on Dec. 31, 2011.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Iowa leads the series, 75-74, but Ohio State has won the last six meetings. The last three games in Iowa City have been decided by 2, 8 and 5 points.
RICK BROWN: LIVE CHATS AND TWITTER
Rick Brown — who covers the Iowa men’s basketball team for The Des Moines Register — hosts a live chat on most Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m.
Rick also tweets during the games he covers. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RickBrownDMR
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball