For two years now, patience has been Jarrod Uthoff’s co-pilot.
It helped steer him through a redshirt season as a member of the Wisconsin men’s basketball team in 2011-12 and through all of last season while sitting out again after transferring to Iowa.
His wait isn’t over yet, either, with the 2013-14 season opener still about six months away in early November.
“I can’t wait,” Uthoff said Wednesday morning. “It’s still kind of unreal. It’s been a long time coming.”
It’s been so long since the 6-foot-8 1/2 Uthoff last played in an official basketball game as a senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School in 2011 that he has grown an inch and gained about 20 pounds since then.
It’s been so long that former Michigan point guard Trey Burke and former Indiana center Cody Zeller both have declared themselves eligible for the 2013 NBA draft after entering college at the same time as Uthoff.
It’s been so long that Uthoff is nearly halfway through college as an economics major.
And it’s been so long since Uthoff last played in a game that the circumstances surrounding the Iowa program have changed dramatically for the better under coach Fran McCaffery.
Iowa only won 10 games during Uthoff’s junior year of high school and 11 when he was a senior.
Uthoff was nearing the end of his junior year at Jefferson when McCaffery replaced Todd Lickliter as the Iowa coach in March 2010. McCaffery tried a late sales pitch, but Uthoff was concerned about the direction of the Iowa program.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, was a model of stability under coach Bo Ryan.
“Fran was just coming in here,” Uthoff said. “So that was hard for me. I didn’t know how he was going to coach. I didn’t really know a lot about him.”
“That was a very tough thing for me. That was the main thing coming out of high school, just the uncertainty.”
The mystery of McCaffery has since been solved and to say that Uthoff likes his new coach would be an understatement. He likes how McCaffery treats his players. He likes the up-tempo system that McCaffery uses. And he likes the results, which include back-to-back winning seasons and a runner-up finish in the NIT this past season.
“He’s a great guy,” Uthoff said of McCaffery. “I can’t say enough good things about him. He cares, and he definitely brings out the best in us.”
Uthoff doesn’t waste time wondering how different his situation would be now if he had signed with Iowa directly out of high school.
“I try to stay away from that because you never know,” Uthoff said. “So why wonder? Just focus on what’s going on now. I’m here now.”
Sitting out back-to-back seasons is something Uthoff probably wouldn’t wish on anybody. He couldn’t travel to road games this past season. He’s had to pay his own way to school this year. And he’s had two years of practicing without being rewarded by getting to play in a game.
But even with all those hurdles, Uthoff said his experience as a Hawkeye has exceeded his expectations so far.
“It’s everything I thought it could be and then some,” said Uthoff, who lived in Marengo before moving to Cedar Rapids as a high school sophomore. “It’s better than I expected.
“The people here are just fantastic. My teammates, the coaches, everything. … I just love everything.”
Uthoff credits his Iowa teammates and coaches for making this past season not feel like such a grind. Winning 25 games also helped but so did having a roster filled with players who seemed to genuinely like each other. It helped to create a positive vibe that lasted throughout the season.
“I always wished I could play, but it never got boring,” Uthoff said. “It was pretty crazy that it didn’t. I just loved where I was at. I love my teammates.
“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be sitting out a second year in a row. I knew what to expect, so that obviously made it easier. I knew I was going to be sitting out. I knew I loved my team and my coaches and I was all right with sitting out.”
Uthoff’s decision to transfer from Wisconsin became a national story after Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan initially put a number of schools, including Iowa, on a restricted list. Uthoff claims to harbor no bitterness and he isn’t worried about having to face his old team at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
“A game’s a game,” Uthoff said. “The surroundings are the surroundings. It doesn’t really matter to me.”
What matters the most to Uthoff is helping Iowa stay on its ascent under McCaffery. Uthoff plays both forward positions and he can score near the basket or on the perimeter.
His addition and the addition of incoming freshman guard Peter Jok will add depth to a team already loaded. Senior Eric May is the only player on scholarship who used up his eligibility this past season.
“Losing Eric will be big because he was the leader of our team and he was a very good player,” Uthoff said. “So we’re going to be missing him, his presence on the court. But we’ve got a lot of people returning. The guys that are going to be older this year have to look at that leadership that Eric brought. That’s how we move forward and fill that gap.”
Uthoff said the players will embrace the expectations for next season and will use it as motivation this summer while playing in the Prime Time League. Iowa hasn’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2006, but many think the drought will end next March.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Hawkeye,” Uthoff said.
And that’s coming from somebody who hasn’t even played in a game yet.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball