How Hawkeyes could line up if Aaron White can't play

Chad Leistikow
Fran McCaffery huddles with his players while Aaron White was sidelined during Iowa’s 67-63 loss at Purdue. The head coach got solid production from a smaller lineup as the Hawkeyes nearly rallied to win at Mackey Arena.

If Aaron White can't play Saturday against fifth-ranked Wisconsin — or beyond — what can we expect from this Iowa basketball team?

Gone would be Iowa's leading scorer, its leading rebounder, its catalyst for getting to the free-throw line and a high-impact player whose energy level is infectious.

"He's a huge part of that team for every reason you could possibly put on a plus list," the next coach to face the Hawkeyes, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, said Monday.

White is considered day-to-day and will be re-evaluated Wednesday after suffering a stinger in last Saturday's 67-63 loss at Purdue. Depending on the severity, such nerve injuries can linger for days, weeks, even months.

It's hard to say when the 6-foot-9 forward's pain in his right (shooting) side would be tolerable enough to play.

"The good thing is there's nothing broke, there's nothing out of place. Just inflammation," McCaffery said Monday. "But very painful."

Although McCaffery can't come out and say this, it's pretty obvious: White is the least-replaceable player on the Hawkeye roster.

Every other position has an experienced primary backup — center Adam Woodbury has Gabe Olaseni; point guard Mike Gesell has Anthony Clemmons; swingmen Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff have Josh Oglesby. White's backup is 6-8 true freshman Dom Uhl, who has shown positive flashes, albeit in limited action.

There are positives and negatives to the three primary options without White: Going big, going small or going Uhl.

Going big would mean putting 7-1 Woodbury and 6-10 Olaseni on the floor together. Olaseni, a senior, is most equipped to shoulder more minutes, having played 23 at Purdue while recovering 16 rebounds. The downside to that approach is both players have a tendency to get into foul trouble.

Going small would push 6-9 Uthoff into White's "4" spot, with Oglesby and Jok becoming the primary wing forwards and Clemmons getting more time at the "2" — where he started in Iowa's first 12 games. Uthoff's game is more perimeter-oriented than White's, and it was the smaller concoction that was on the floor as the Hawkeyes tried to overcome Purdue.

"I have no problem playing that way; would play that way again in the future," McCaffery said.

Going Uhl would be an immediate commitment to White's heir apparent, but the returns would be uncertain. In increased minutes in Iowa's past two games (35 total), Uhl scored four points on 2-of-11 shooting.

If White can't go, McCaffery will likely deploy all three options vs. the Badgers, a team that whipped Iowa 82-50 on Jan. 20. And Uthoff, Iowa's second-leading scorer who shot 2-for-14 vs. Purdue, probably becomes Iowa's primary scoring option.

"It can't be one guy," McCaffery said. "It might be one guy in the sense that Jarrod scores a few more baskets. But Jarrod's better when he's scoring, rebounding, blocking shots, he's locked in defensively. It's not, 'Hey, we need you to go get us buckets because Aaron White's out.' He's got to be a very well-rounded player in that situation."