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Why Aaron White's offseason mission will make Hawkeyes better

[ 0 ] October 14, 2013 |

It is a moment burned in Aaron White’s memory bank, one of hundreds of possessions that made up the forward’s sophomore season at Iowa.

The Hawkeyes were playing Stony Brook in the first half of a second-round NIT basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last March.

“I’m standing here on the wing, and everyone is yelling, ‘Driver, driver, driver,’” White said.

Translation: No respect for White’s mid-range jump shot.

White hasn’t forgotten that. It drives him to become a better mid-range shooter. Good enough that defenders will be forced to make a choice.

“Once you make a couple of shots, they come out on you a little differently,” White said. “They’re up into you more, and then you go by them. All of a sudden you create help, you create passing lanes, you create free-throw opportunities. So making jump shots opens up a lot of people’s games.”

On a team deep with experience, White may be the real key to unlocking that elusive NCAA Tournament bid.

If White is better, the Hawkeyes will be better.

The beauty of White is that he understands his weaknesses, as well as his strengths. After a loss to Baylor in the finals of the NIT in April, White sat in the Hawkeyes’ Madison Square Garden locker room and openly discussed those weaknesses.

The forward’s scoring average had increased, from 11.1 to 12.8 points a game. His free-throw attempts jumped from 143 to 258, and his percentage at the line rose from 69.9 to 74.8. But White made just four more field goals than he had the previous season, proving the Stony Brook coaches had him figured out: driver, yes. Shooter, not so much.

“I was ineffective outside the paint,” White admitted after that Baylor loss.

A busy summer cut into the hours he traditionally reserves for skill development. White made the World University Games team, which played in Russia in July. And the Hawkeyes went on a tour of England and France in August. But White is doing what he can to catch up, working on his shot under the watchful eye of Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw.

“A lot of my problems with not making jump shots is the arc on it and releasing it high,” White said. “We’re working on the arc, and a full follow through. No one has perfect form. It’s about perfecting the same muscular motion. I’m trying to shoot it higher. And usually when I shoot it higher, it goes in. So (Speraw) must know what he’s talking about.”

Developing that mid-range game would take White a step closer to being a complete player, and another step toward realizing his long-range goal.

“The ultimate goal for me is to play in the NBA, and that’s what I want to do,” White said. “But I’m not going to let that override what’s best for this team. I’m working on things such as my jump shot, such as my conditioning, to be able to play at a high level and be able to guard a small forward in the NBA. And all those things are going to help Iowa win basketball games as well.”

White shot 258 free throws last season, 69 more than any other teammate. That will remain an effective option this season. But it’s these numbers – a 46.8 shooting percentage from the field, including 23.4 from 3 – that will have to improve for Iowa, and White, to climb the ladder.

“My jump shot is coming along,” White said. “But I can only talk about it so much. … Eventually I have to show it on the floor. That’s what I plan on doing.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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