Player of the Week
Aaron White, Iowa
It’s refreshing when a basketball player fully understands his strengths and continuously uses them to produce. White is an above average athlete for the position he plays. He’s also a hell of a free throw shooter. His M.O.? Put the ball on the floor, gain an advantage with a good angle to the hoop, get fouled by a slower on-ball defender, and make two free throws. He’s made the most free throws in conference history. This year, he’s first in the conference in free throw attempts and 8th in the conference in free throw percentage (81.9%).
Before Tuesday night’s disaster at the Kohl Center, Iowa was 4-0 in conference play, with White being a big reason why. In a grinder at Minnesota, White didn’t shoot well but still found ways to add value – he had a team-high 4 assists and limited Minnesota’s frontcourt to minimal production.
The second half stretch that White had at Ohio State showcased his complete skill set and exemplified how Iowa can be a very dangerous basketball team. At one point, White scored twelve straight points for the Hawkeyes. White’s skills were on full display when he grabbed a defensive board from below the block, took about 8 dribbles up the floor, and finished on the other end with a strong layup. He finished with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals as Iowa came away with an impressive conference road win.
DJ Newbill, G, Penn State
Newbill had a monster game against Purdue, going 13-23 from the field and 10-11 from the free throw line en route to 37 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. Purdue’s guards had trouble with Newbill’s strength. Purdue’s forwards weren’t quick enough to stay in front of Newbill when he dove to the basket.
What makes it even more impressive is the focus that Newbill receives from the opening tip until the last whistle. EVERY advanced scouting report knows that Newbill is going to get a heavy load of shot attempts. He’s first in the league in field goal attempts with 283 and averages 11.5 shot attempts per game. Still, Newbill is 6th in the conference in field goal percentage and 3rd in free throws made. He’s 2nd in Offensive Win Shares behind Frank Kaminsky while being first in the conference averaging 37.5 minutes per game.
I had reservations about putting Newbill in this category because of his subpar performance at Indiana. Even though Penn State clawed their way back into that game, I felt Newbill never really asserted himself, and it wasn’t because of exceptional defense from either Troy Williams or any other Indiana player. But still – like Aaron White, Newbill finds ways to add so much value even when he’s not scoring, as the senior had a team-high 6 assists.
Kendrick Nunn, Illinois
If Illinois is going to live and die by the three-point shot, they might as well have Nunn take the most attempts from deep. The sophomore went 10-17 from deep in back-to-back conference games against Northwestern and Indiana. It seems imperative for Nunn to get going early on in the game. His confidence and dribble-drive game expands when he’s able to make three-pointers within the first four minutes.
With Rayvonte Rice hurt, Nunn was inserted into the starting lineup, and this may account for his recent success. The Microwave, Vinnie Johnson, was a guy who made a living in the NBA coming off the bench. Whether it’s a mental impediment or a delay in getting accustomed to game speed, Nunn is less effective coming off the bench. Nunn is averaging 24.5 points per game and is shooting over 60% from the field after his first road start against Nebraska. Don’t be surprised if John Groce keeps Nunn in the starting lineup when Rice returns.
Jordan Dickerson and D.J. Newbill, Penn State
Sometimes, games or individuals are defined by one singly play. It’s a moment in time that any person can replay in their head countless times. Up by two against Purdue and, most importantly, with Flava Flav in the house, Penn State found one of the worst ways to lose a basketball game.
After a viable checkout from all other Penn State players, Jordan Dickerson, who himself did a nice job blocking out, made ZERO attempt or effort to snag the ball for a rebound. He half-heartedly lunged a limb at the ball. When one rebound can guarantee a victory for your team, you do everything in your power to get that basketball. Dickerson failed to do so.
Second, Newbill’s inability to understand time and situation after the missed free throw was very discouraging. Coming out of a timeout, Penn State knew that the last thing Pat Chambers wanted was for Purdue to get a three-point attempt. That is why the Nittany Lions fouled in the first place to prevent any shot attempt from deep. After Dickerson couldn’t secure the rebound, the ball got out to the corner behind the three point arc. Nonetheless, Newbill had at least two chances to foul Kendall Stephens inside the arc and prevent a three-point try. Stephens stepped back, rose, and drilled a cold-blooded three to tie the game.
If Penn State wants to win any conference games, they have to avoid failing in these types of situations.
Top 5 Free Throw Shooters in the Conference
1. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana (73-83, 88.0%)
2. Melo Trimble, Maryland (131-149, 87.9%)
3. Geno Thorpe, Penn State (64-73, 87.7%)
4. James Blackmon Jr., Indiana (60-69, 87%)
5. Myles Mack, Rutgers (67-78, 85.9%)