INDIANAPOLIS-D.J. White just wants to be himself again.
Indiana's 6-9, 243-pound sophomore is back on the floor after missing six-plus weeks with a broken bone in his foot, but he's not back to the form that earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors a year ago and preseason All-Big Ten accolades this season.
"I'm not myself right now," said White after contributing six points, five rebounds and four fouls in 11 minutes against Butler Friday night.
The reasons for that don't involve any physical limitations as a result of the injury. Instead, it's all about White regaining his conditioning and rediscovering his rhythm on the court.
"There are a lot of things I have to work on to get back in game shape," said White. "Conditioning is going pretty good, but I'm not in game shape. (Riding) the bike and swimming, you can only do so much. Game conditioning is different."
White isn't the only one who's discovered that. Other than a 21-point second half barrage against Kentucky, A.J. Ratliff has struggled since his return from a broken thumb. Ratliff has scored a combined five points on 2-of-12 shooting in the other five games since coming back, including a zero-point, 15-minute effort against Butler.
White's struggles haven't been quite as dramatic – he's averaging seven points, five rebounds and 14 minutes in his two games while shooting 7-of-16 from the floor.
"I don't feel I'm in a slump, I just have to get my rhythm going," said White.
While White's numbers have been solid considering his extended absence from games and well as practice, it's still a long way from the kind of impact White made a year ago, and what he hopes to once again be making in the not-too-distant future.
In an effort to get White untracked, IU Coach Mike Davis said Friday that he might start White in Indiana's Dec. 31 encounter with Ball State in Muncie. Indiana's sixth-year head coach is hoping to have White back to full speed by the time the Big Ten slate tips off Jan. 3 against Michigan, and he knows he'll need White at his best by Jan. 11 when the team travels to East Lansing, Mich., for its first Big Ten road game against Michigan State.
Davis is understanding of the up-and-down efforts from both.
"They're not going to be in rhythm all the time," said Davis. "(Ratliff) missed a month and a half of practice and games. We definitely want them both back and playing the way they were before the injuries, but that's not the way it's going to be (right away)."
While that's likely been a bit frustrating for both Ratliff and White, Davis is relieved that he can bring the duo along slowly instead of force-feeding them minutes. With one of the nation's deepest benches, Indiana has been able to absorb those injuries and still jump out to a 7-2 start.
"We have enough guys on our team that we don't have to just leave them out there and let them play through it," said Davis.
With the Big Ten season looming, though, Davis knows he'll need significant and consistent contributions from both sophomores if Indiana is to contend for its first Big Ten title since 2002. White in particular is someone who will be critical to the team's success, someone who can play alongside Marco Killingsworth to give the Hoosiers one of the nation's best frontcourt tandems.
"It's on me right now," said White. "I am just coming back from an injury, but that's not an excuse. I just have to get better."
White Wants To Be Himself
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