Brown: White vows to play against No. 5 Wisconsin
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Aaron White knew what was coming.
"Fifteen minutes of questions about my shoulder," Iowa's senior forward said to his coach, Fran McCaffery, as he headed to the media room at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Thursday afternoon.
Just like a baseball pitcher, McCaffery told him, making a throwing motion.
"My pitching days are over," White responded.
White gave up pitching in the 8th grade. But he's got the most talked-about right shoulder in the Big Ten after getting injured four minutes into Saturday's loss at Purdue. A stinger, we were told. Extremely painful, an injury that could heal quickly or linger for months.
Sunday and Monday, the pain didn't improve. And White got nervous.
"You start thinking the worse," White said. "But now, it's a lot more promising."
McCaffery said that if White can return to practice Friday, he has a chance to play Saturday when Iowa hosts No. 5 Wisconsin. White said he plans on practicing Friday. And playing Saturday.
That's a leap of optimism from Tuesday, when White figured there was no way he would play Saturday. But a break in the schedule – a week between games – has been beneficial. The discomfort in his neck and shoulder is slowly going away.
His availability would give the Hawkeyes a lift against a Wisconsin team that destroyed them by 32 points less than two weeks ago in Madison. Iowa did nothing right that day, and paid dearly. That was followed by a four-point loss at Purdue that included an encouraging comeback without White.
But having White back is vital to any kind of long-term success for an Iowa team that is 4-3 in the Big Ten and 13-7 overall. Not only is he the team's leading scorer and rebounder, he's one of three players in school history to occupy a spot in the career top 10 in both categories.
White has never missed a game at Iowa, 126 in all. Not always 100 percent, but still out there. He's not out of the woods yet for Saturday, and McCaffery continues to contemplate different lineups if White can't go.
Guard Anthony Clemmons is the most likely starter if White is idle, sliding Jarrod Uthoff to White's power forward spot and moving Peter Jok from two guard to small forward.
White has been attached to the hip of trainer Brad Floy since leaving West Lafayette.
"That's my guy," White said. "He's taking good care of me."
There was a lot of ice to the shoulder and light movement, trying to get the shoulder loose, the first two days. Heat treatments and more extensive movement the next two days. White ran Wednesday, and got up some shots Thursday. He's also run on a treadmill and stationary bike, and got in some lower body weight work.
Special padding will be sewn into a shirt White will wear under his jersey to protect his shoulder. If he gets the green light Saturday, White said he'll play with no trepidation.
"I don't want to go out there and think about it," White said. "That would be a negative impact. If I'm out there, it will be with a free mind, playing my game and trying to help us win."
If. White said it. But he doesn't believe it.
"I told you," White said. "I'm playing. I'll be ready to go."
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.