Last week, Aaron White said with a straight face that he deserved to be named first-team all-Big Ten Conference.
Turns out, the news media and coaches agreed with the 6-foot-9 Iowa senior forward.
White was one of five players named to the first team Monday night, a significant accomplishment considering this was the first year with 14 teams in the league.
The Hawkeye senior weighs in on his All-Big Ten ballot. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
White was joined on the media and coaches' first teams by Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell and Indiana's Yogi Ferrell. Maryland's two best players each got a first-team nod, too — Dez Wells by the coaches, Melo Trimble by the media.
Congratulations are in order for White's longtime roommate and close friend, Gabe Olaseni. The 6-foot-10 senior from London was named the league's Sixth Man of the Year by the coaches, who also named Iowa junior Jarrod Uthoff to the Big Ten's third team.
Kaminsky was named the Big Ten player of the year; Russell was the freshman of the year; Purdue's Rapheal Davis was named defensive player of the year.
Last Thursday, White stated his case for a spot on the prestigious first team.
"I'm not one to promote myself or be arrogant," he said then. "But you look at team record, statistics, importance for a team — I think I deserve first-team."
A splendid surge in the season's final six games helped White cement Iowa's second consecutive year with a first-teamer. Guard Devyn Marble made the first squad a year ago, becoming the first Hawkeye to accomplish that since Adam Haluska in 2007.
White has averaged 21.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game during Iowa's current six-game winning streak.
"I think he deserves it," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "I think he played his way onto it."
White's home finale Saturday was one to remember. He poured in 25 points, moving into No. 2 on Iowa's all-time scoring list with 1,793 points, and became the school's No. 3 all-time rebounder (with eight) in a 69-52 win over Northwestern.
For the season, White finished seventh in the Big Ten in scoring (15.9 ppg) and third in rebounding (7.4 rpg) while ranking 10th in field-goal percentage (.514) and seventh in free-throw accuracy (.814).
"I hope they remember me as one of the all-time greats here," White said after the Northwestern game. "I worked really hard at it. I think I've dedicated everything I've had to this program, to playing basketball here. It's been an amazing four years.
"Whatever people want to think about me, I hope it's in a positive light. I hope they remember me as a winner, as somebody who left it all on the floor, as somebody who would do whatever it takes to win."
The journey isn't over for White and the 21-10 Hawkeyes. They're locks for the NCAA Tournament and resume play at approximately 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. Iowa will meet Wednesday's Nebraska-Penn State winner. Once White plays one second of that matchup, he'll become the school's all-time leader in games played with 138.
On his way to being honored as the Big Ten's top bench player, Olaseni averaged 8.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots a game. He was given his first career start on Senior Day.
Olaseni said that early in his career he wished he could start, but eventually learned to accept his role as a spark off the bench. Adam Woodbury, a 7-foot-1 junior, had started every game of his career ahead of Olaseni at center until McCaffery made an exception Saturday.
"When you come here as a young kid, you just want to have all the limelight and glory," Olaseni said Saturday. "But you have to humble yourself and understand it is a team sport.
"I'm still in late game, I'm still getting around 20 minutes a game, so you can't really complain. You just have to humble yourself. I feel like I've been a really good sixth man for this team this year."
Uthoff, meanwhile, carried Iowa at times, especially in clutch wins away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena, on his way to a third-team nod. He was second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, but he averaged 15.0 points a game in Big Ten road games (in which Iowa went 6-3).
What's in store for the red-hot Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament? Andrea Melendez/The Register