During the last four years, Aaron White has shown Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery that he's tough. Despite the senior forward's lean frame, he's banged with the bruisers in the Big Ten, never needing more than a few minutes to rest before returning to battle.
McCaffery said that's what he was expecting when White left the floor grabbing his right shoulder early in the first half Saturday at Purdue. The coach figured he'd give his captain a five-minute rest and get him back on the floor.
White returned to action but quickly bent over, writhing in pain moving for loose ball. McCaffery knew that his tough guy needed to tap out.
"I was pretty sure that he was hurting," the coach said. "You could see it on his face. He about collapsed in my arms on his way off the floor. He just couldn't do it. I knew even though I hadn't been told by our trainer that he was done at that point, I wasn't going to put him back in, not when he's in that kind of pain."
White was diagnosed with a stinger. McCaffery said on Monday's Big Ten teleconference that his leading scorer and rebounder's status for their next game, Saturday against league leader Wisconsin, was up in the air.
"He's still sore," the coach said. "He's been seen by our doctors and he's been getting treatment. He won't do anything. He'll be re-evaluated Wednesday morning and we'll see where it is then. But right now, it's just day to day and just continuous treatment."
White has started every Hawkeye game since the beginning of his sophomore season, a stretch of 91 contests. Him opening the meeting with the Badgers could come down to his pain threshold, McCaffery said.
"This isn't an injury that I've had a lot of experience with," the coach said. "I've never had a player that had one. It's an inflammation thing. It's going to be painful. It's partly a function of what kind of grade it is. It looks like it was a pretty (severe) one.
"He's going to have some discomfort throughout this entire week, maybe even into next week. The question will be will he be able to at least play and be at least close to himself. We'll have to see."
White averages 15.1 points and 6.6 rebounds, both tops of the team. If he misses the Wisconsin game, McCaffery will juggle his lineup as he did in Saturday's 67-63 loss at Purdue.
The coach employed a small line-up quite a bit against the Boilermakers, starting the second half with back-up point guard Anthony Clemmons in place of White. He played alongside fellow guards Mike Gesell and Peter Jok, small forward Jarrod Uthoff and center Adam Woodbury.
McCaffery said he could switch things up against the Badgers, playing freshman forward Dom Uhl in place of White, going with a bigger guard in Josh Oglesby or having reserve center Gabe Olaseni join Woodbury in a twin towers alignment.
"I think I would have to challenge everybody to step up," McCaffery said of his approach if White missed time. "Obviously, (Uthoff is) a prime candidate because he's a scoring forward. We need him to score.
"Everybody's got to step up. It can't be one guy. It might be one guy in the sense that Jarrod scored a few more baskets. But it's not we need you to go get us buckets because Aaron White is out. He's got to be a very well-rounded player in that situation."
Sixth-ranked Wisconsin stomped Iowa, 82-50, in Madison last week with White. The schedule has rendered both teams idle this week to prepare for the rematch.
"We might make lineup changes depending on Aaron's situation," McCaffery said of adjustments. "Other than that, both teams kind of do what they do. My hope is that we play a lot better than we did on Tuesday night."
Now, it's a wait-and-see game with White. It could be worse.
"Usually it's a broken collarbone or a separated shoulder when there's a collision like that," McCaffery said. "There's nothing broken. There's nothing out of place. It's just inflammation but it's very painful."