Aaron White is surrounding self with greatness

Iowa senior-to-be goes from Kevin Durant's summer camp to LeBron James'

Aaron White with a jam at Ohio State last January (Greg Bartram/USA TODAY Sports)
Aaron White with a jam at Ohio State last January (Greg Bartram/USA TODAY Sports)

WATERLOO — The outside world is telling Iowa’s Aaron White he is an elite college basketball player.

Perhaps the experiences he is having this summer will help him in his quest to become just that.

It’s not that White hasn’t been very good over his first three years as a Hawkeye. Obviously, he has. You can point to a lot of big moments and games White has compiled, and the third-team All-Big Ten status he received last season was conferred upon him for valid reasons.

But the 6-foot-9 Ohioan has another level to reach to be remembered as one of Iowa’s great players. That would mean having a first-team all-conference kind of season, finishing the season strong, and helping the Hawkeyes to more than a 9-9 Big Ten mark and a first-round NCAA tournament exit.

That might mean becoming a more forceful defender and a more-consistent outside shooter. It almost surely means being his team’s leader.

Devyn Marble’s Iowa career has ended. If there is an obvious candidate to represent the heart of the 2014-15 Hawkeyes, it is White. Perhaps what he did last weekend and what he’ll do this week will help with what should be his heightened role.

Last weekend, White was one of 26 college players invited to the Kevin Durant Nike Elite Skills Academy in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, he’ll be in Las Vegas as one of 30 collegians at the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy.

White had barely been back in Iowa City after attending Durant’s camp when he got the invitation to head west this week for James’ event.

“It sounds elite, doesn’t it?” White said after playing in a Prime Time League game in Waterloo Thursday night. “Getting the opportunity to play in front of LeBron and all the (NBA) coaches and all the scouts that are going to be there.

“It’s almost surreal to me. I called my girlfriend, I called my mom, I called my dad. I couldn’t really believe what I was telling them.”

Maybe this is just what White needs at this point in his career, to accept that he should follow Marble onto the All-Big Ten first team, that he can be elite and make things go through him on the court next season.

The way last season ended can’t be sitting well with him. White had five points and two field goal attempts in Iowa’s loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten tourney, seven points and five shots in the Hawkeyes’ overtime defeat to Tennessee in the NCAAs.

He’s much more than that, as he has showed repeatedly since his freshman season.

Being around the NBA’s two top players and included with many of the best returning college players has to be good for White’s mind-set. Being around 2013-14 NBA MVP Durant reaffirmed some things to him.

“He wasn’t bigger than life,” White said. “He was just like us. He’s just a humble dude. He just likes to play basketball, which I really admire about him.

“He’s in the gym two, three times a day. He’s said it himself, ‘This is my job.’ All he cares about is balling. That’s how I am.”

White had a tip-in dunk over Durant when they were on the court together. He played down the moment, which was got exaggerated as a hammer dunk in some circles as the story spread. But hey, a basket against KD is a basket against KD.

Now, bring on King James.

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