IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jarrod Uthoff was home in front of a television, 175 miles from the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., when he saw teammate Josh Oglesby’s potential game-winning 3-point shot defy gravity and pop out against Wisconsin earlier this month.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Uthoff said. “What are the chances?”
Wisconsin went on to beat Iowa in double overtime. A frustrating loss for the Hawkeyes. A frustrating loss for Uthoff, who wishes he could be on the floor helping a team that has been dealt some heartbreakers on the road in the Big Ten Conference.
“Watching those games, I get so mad at the TV,” Uthoff said. “It’s tough.”
Iowa’s Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011 as a senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Uthoff started his college career at Wisconsin. After redshirting the 2011-12 season, he decided to transfer. Now he’s at Iowa, spending a second straight season on the sidelines.
“The biggest thing is knowing I can’t do anything to help my teammates,” said Uthoff, who is not allowed to travel with the team and is usually joined by his parents in front of the TV.
Uthoff was a Top 100 national recruit in the Class of 2011. He became a national story last spring when he decided to leave Wisconsin. Coach Bo Ryan initially put numerous restrictions on Uthoff’s transfer. It became a national media debate.
“I was embarrassed that it had to get that big,” Uthoff said. “I realized that it wasn’t going to work for me (at Wisconsin). I wanted to go someplace else. I really didn’t want to make it that big of a deal. I was just going to leave, go to the next school and be happy, right? I didn’t think there was any need for it to get that big.”
Ryan eventually limited Uthoff’s restrictions to Big Ten schools. Uthoff picked Iowa over Iowa State and Creighton in June and will be on scholarship starting next year —thanks in part to current Wisconsin guard Ben Brust.
Brust signed with Iowa, then was given his release when Fran McCaffery replaced Todd Lickliter as coach. The Big Ten rule, which didn’t allow transfers from one league team to another to receive a scholarship, was changed. Uthoff will be a beneficiary.
“I’m thankful,” Uthoff said. “That’s all I can say.”
Now he’s looking forward to making a name for himself on the floor, not in the eye of a publicity hurricane.
“I can’t wait,” said Uthoff, who recently decided to major in economics. “It’s been too long since I’ve played a game.”
Uthoff has added more than 20 pounds to his frame over the last two years. He’s gotten stronger, and worked hard on his shooting and ball-handling with Iowa assistant coach Kirk Speraw.
“The thing I like is that you can play him as a long, shot-blocking post player or on the perimeter, as a guy who can put it on the deck and hit a pull-up jumper, hit a 3 or make a play for someone else on the dribble,” McCaffery said. “When you put that skill set together you have a very impressive player and, with the other players we have, something we desperately need.”
McCaffery has gotten Uthoff as many reps as possible in practice, either on the scout team or in scrimmages.
“I think that’s important,” McCaffery said, “because we expect him to be an impact player next year.”
Practice has shown Uthoff that his strength, versatility, fits McCaffery’s style perfectly.
“Pushing myself as hard as I can go will not only get myself better but it’s also going to get my teammates better,” Uthoff said.
Sometime this November, Iowa will open the 2013-14 season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It is a college debut that Uthoff anxiously awaits.
“I’ll do what I do best, to the greatest of my ability,” Uthoff said. “That’s all anyone can ask.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball