Before you eye roll through the entirety of this piece, I want it to be known that I think (and have said on this site) that Aaron White is on my all-time Hawkeye basketball team. Heck, he's probably even starting. What he did for the Iowa program the previous four seasons is nothing short of spectacular when you look at the entire landscape.
In fact, lets do just that before I get accused of blasphemy:
White is ranked first in Hawkeye history in games played (140), free throws made with 618 (which is also more free throws made by any Big Ten basketball player in the last 50 years), free throw attempts (800), second all-time in scoring (1,859), third in rebounding (901) and 14th in double-doubles (16). He also led the team in rebounding all four years he was on campus (first Hawkeye to ever do so). He is the first Hawkeye to register 1,300 points, 650 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 assists by his junior season and the only Hawkeye with 1,800 points, 900 rebounds, 175 assists, and 125 steals in a career.
I can't feel my face after reading those over.
What a collegiate career.
Nevertheless, while I realize what White's impact was for Iowa, he's not their biggest loss going into 2015. He was a jack of all trades and he remains arguably the most important Iowa basketball player in the last 10 years, BUT I think what he did for Iowa last year can be replicated very closely by Jarrod Uthoff.
Read that again... I said replicated, never duplicated.
What I do not think can be replicated is what Gabe Olaseni did coming off the bench for the Hawkeyes Top-35 defense according to KenPom. The 6'10" London native with a 7'2" wing span (who finished 5th on the Iowa Hawkeyes all-time blocks list) was unbelievable as a 6th man and a crutch for Fran McCaffery's defense.
What turned Olaseni into a crowd favorite was his continuous ability to be coached up and the drive he showed to develop his game. While it looked early on like Olaseni was just a giant body full of untapped potential, he surprised quickly; going from the young, raw project/thinker to a smart, defensive reactor.
He wasn't just another big brought in to give the practice team some height. He was a bonafide game changer. He was always a spark plug. He gave those Iowa teams an edge. Like the chip that was on his shoulder from being slighted by recruiting services and the lack of other Division I program attention was prevalent on each and every one of his teammates shoulders too.
When looking back, what made the Olaseni for Woodbury sub-in work so well was the vast contrast in both he and Woodbury's style and overall game. They aren't cookie cutter versions of one another. Every one of Iowa's opponents had to plan differently for each of them. Woodbury was the better passer, all around scorer and defensive rebounder. Olaseni was the better free throw shooter, offensive rebounder and shot blocker. Each possessed the traits the other didn't. But its that last thing that set Olaseni a part the most.
Woodbury only blocked 13 shots during his junior season. His counterpart blew him out of the water with 54. And I don't want that to come off as a rip on Woodbury. He just does't have the natural and uncanny ability to slide over at JUSTTTTTT the right time, get vertical with his hands straight in the air and challenge shots like Olaseni does.
Just watch how well Gabe, running down the floor with his man in transition, slides over to the help side at just the right time all the while leaping in the air. It's honestly beautiful defensive basketball. It's what made Roy Hibbert so valuable to those Pacer teams that pushed LeBron James and the Miami Heat to the brink from a couple years back, NOTHING CAME EASY when you found yourself in the restricted area.
And for McCaffery, he had that ace in his pocket walking into every game and he used it at just the right time more often than not. It's no wonder why the back-up center won the Big Ten's 6th Man of the Year award last year.
But now with Olaseni off to Germany in hopes of developing his game even more for an NBA run next season, the only back up to Woodbury is an incoming JUCO transfer in Dale Jones. Look, I think Dale Jones is going to have potential and I'm excited for what he could bring to this team. But he's the demon I don't know and unfortunately he's going to get compared to Olaseni with what I'm assuming will be a similar 6th man/defensive anchor role.
So yes, while I love Aaron White and his overall game, there are players in line that can fill into his role. I can't say as much for Olaseni.
Gone are the offensive rebounds (156 in total from his junior and senior season). Gone are the blocked shots that made Iowa's interior defense so stingy (97 in total from his junior and senior season). Gone are the 163 points from the free throw line on 73.4% shooting (!). And gone are his 5.5 fouls drawn per 40 minutes last year (second on the team to only Aaron White).
Gone baby, gone. But never forgotten...