The Hoosiers opened their season last Saturday against UT-Chattanooga with a 99-77 resounding win in what many were calling "The Eric Gordon Show". The 6-foot-4 super frosh certainly took control by scoring 33 eye-opening points and controlling the second half on both ends of the court. It was the type of big-time performance that will get talking heads across the country singing your praises. CBS Sportsline columnist Gary Parrish has already included Gordon on his top five watch list for the Wooden Award given to the country's best player. As far as coming out parties go they don't get much bigger or better than the display Gordon gave the home crowd in the season-opener.
Amidst all the fanfare and hoopla, though, the workman like effort of senior D.J. White was lost. The 6-foot-9 Alabama native quietly put up 17 points on 5-7 shooting in just 28 minutes of play. As a matter of fact the loudest part of White's night was the sound of his head hitting the hardwood midway through the second half. The incident, which resulted in an early exit and stitches for White, happened on a hustle play on defense during a moment of the game that maybe didn't require such an all-out effort from IU's oh-so-valuable big man. But White only plays in one gear since Coach Kelvin Sampson came to town so "toning things down" is a phrase he's not familiar with.
"I tried to catch myself, but I guess I missed that opportunity," said White. "I think I hit my shoulder first and then my head hit the ground. The only thing I remember after that is being in the locker room talking to Tim [Garl]. Then Armon (Bassett) told me I had `Tweety Birds' going around my head. It hurt but I'm fine. I remember [giving the thumbs up], but I think I was more clear once I sat down in the locker room."
Luckily, for the Hoosiers White didn't suffer a concussion, just a nasty cut that required five stitches. But was the senior leader's ego bruised after watching the new Big Man on Campus, Eric Gordon, steal the show and the headlines on Saturday night?
Not in the least.
As a matter of fact if there was one word to describe White's mood since Gordon and the rest of the large cast of newcomers arrived on campus it would be jubilant.
"I love it," said White. "I don't have to do a lot of work when I get the ball. It's just one move and get my shot up. We've got a lot of penetrators, Jordan (Crawford), Eric (Gordon), they get to the hole and people have to respect them. It's good for us."
After years of often going it alone in the paint, White finally has help not just under the basket but on the perimeter as well. After missing out on playing with Marco Killingsworth two years ago, White is excited to finally get on the court with some players that are guaranteed to no longer make him the lone center of attention. Saturday's debut for the new guys was a strong sign of encouragement for White, but he also knows that the meshing process has just begun.
"I felt good about the guys, what they did - Jordan, E.J. (Gordon), `Dre (Thomas) came in the second half and provided a spark for us on the defensive end, (Jamarcus Ellis) had nine rebounds," said White. "Collectively, they did a good job. We have a lot of things we all need to work on, especially on the defensive end. It was a good start, a little scary at the beginning, but a good start."
Perhaps the biggest difference for White may be the presence of some legitimate big men to help in the paint. Last season his help most often came in the form of 6-foot-5 forward Mike White and scrappy, but thin forward Lance Stemler. This year he not only has 6-foot-9, long-armed shotblocker Eli Holman helping protect the rim, but one of the biggest players to ever wear the cream and crimson in the 300-pound, 6-foot-8 Thomas. After dropping 50 pounds over the summer, Thomas quickly dropped 11 points on the Moccasins in 22 very effective minutes. Having that kind of help around the basket will make things considerably easier for White after years of often being a lone warrior around the rim.
"It's a big difference," said White. "It frees me up, it frees the guards up. Teams can't just focus on one post player, they have to focus on the other one because he's good around the basket. So it does a lot for our offense."
The old saying suggests that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Don't expect White, or the Hoosier offense, to lay many eggs this season.
White Loves Company
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