Dec. 11, 2012
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The afternoon before the Iowa-Iowa State men's basketball game, Aaron White dialed long distance to talk to a mentor and friend.
White, who was talking with the coaches last week about leading by example and how others will follow his lead, wanted to pick the brain of one of his role models, Matt Gatens, before the in-state showdown.
"Matt was our rock, both offensively and defensively, and I wanted to get into his mind in how he prepared for practice every day," said White. "How hard you play in practice, it makes the game that much easier. He also gave me some pointers on conditioning and being more vocal at times."
Gatens, who has watched most of Iowa's games online while in Spain, said White is doing great things on the press with his length and quickness, getting steals, and scoring in transition.
"I credit Matt (Gatens) a lot more than people may think for my development and where I am right now. I really looked up to him last year; we became close friends. With him being a senior and me a freshman, I tried to watch and emulate him. He was always a lead-by-example kind of guy. Matt got to a point where I want to be eventually. He was the center of our team and everyone focused on him and followed what he did."
UI sophomore Aaron White
"The main thing I wanted to share with him was to speak up and be that leader on the court; those are things he struggled with last year," said Gatens. "Aaron has great intensity and a positive attitude. It's fun to watch him progress and lead this team."
White has stayed in close contact with Gatens since he moved to Spain to play professional basketball via written communication, however, last Friday was the first time he talked on the phone with one of the all-time great Hawkeyes.
"We talked about 20 minutes," White said. "Most of our conversation was about Spain, our seasons and basketball-related stuff."
White had high praise for the Iowa City native in helping accelerate his growth and development.
"I credit Matt (Gatens) a lot more than people may think for my development and where I am right now," said White. "I really looked up to him last year; we became close friends. With him being a senior and me a freshman, I tried to watch and emulate him. He was always a lead-by-example kind of guy. Matt got to a point where I want to be eventually. He was the center of our team and everyone focused on him and followed what he did."
After the conversation, White took to Mediacom Court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with energy and passion, scoring 14 first-half points to help the Hawkeyes build an early lead over the Cyclones. The Strongsville, Ohio, native was flying above the rim and snagging key rebounds most of the night, ultimately finishing with 18 points and seven rebounds.
"In addition to talking about the nature of the rivalry, we talked about how we needed that game from a resume standpoint," said Gatens. "Aaron understands the rivalry, and it showed on the court."
Gatens said the game tipped off at 2 a.m. local time in Spain, but he had to stay up to watch the rivalry live.
"I was pretty amped watching the game," said Gatens. "It's different watching and being a fan again. But at the same time, I was just there last year and know what's going on in the program, and what's being said and what plays are being called in the huddle. It was a lot of fun to watch."
White and the Hawkeyes are concentrating on their final exams this week before traveling to Des Moines to face Northern Iowa on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (CT) in the Hy-Vee Big 4 Classic. White said the Iowa State win was huge, but knows there is a long road ahead.
"(The Iowa State victory) gives us confidence going into our last three nonconference games and then it gets tougher from there as we enter Big Ten play," said White. "We need to keep working hard in practice and maintain our confidence level."
Tickets to the Hy-Vee Big 4 Classic can be purchased at the Wells Fargo Arena box office or online at dahlstickets.com.