The Prime Time League was created in the late 1980s in large part to give members of the Iowa men’s basketball team a place to compete in a more structured environment over the summer.
But for Jarrod Uthoff, it means more than that.
It provides the 6-foot-8 Uthoff with a chance to compete in front of a crowd and with officials overseeing his games. It hardly resembles the real thing. But for somebody who hasn’t played in a real game in nearly two years, as is the case with Uthoff, the PTL is a pretty big deal. It was the same way for him last summer as he adjusted to his new college teammates and to his new surroundings.
“It’s a big motivator,” Uthoff said Thursday of playing in the PTL. “Not that I’m not motivated by myself to play basketball. But it’s nice coming out here.”
Uthoff is nearing the end of two-year odyssey that started with him spending his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin and being redshirted under coach Bo Ryan. Uthoff then decided that he wanted to transfer and the former Cedar Rapids Jefferson star eventually picked Iowa but not without becoming part of a national story after Ryan put Iowa on a list of schools to which Uthoff couldn’t transfer.
Uthoff ultimately was allowed to transfer to Iowa and he began his transition by playing in the PTL last summer. But he had to sit out last season and pay his own way to school. He practiced with the team and spent countless hours working on his game.
“My whole game is better than a year ago,” Uthoff said. “Every facet of my game is better.”
Uthoff also has a better feel for his Iowa teammates, for coach Fran McCaffery and for the assistant coaches after spending a year in the Iowa program.
“It’s great; you can go into his office and talk to him anytime,” Uthoff said of McCaffery, who led Iowa to a 25-13 record and to a runner-up finish in the National Invitation Tournament last season. “He’s a fantastic guy, and I love him even more as a coach.
“I couldn’t be any happier being a Hawkeye. I’m loving it.”
Uthoff only scored 15 points in Thursday’s PTL game, but his team was in control from start to finish and prevailed 130-107. He had at least four blocks in the first half, including three with his left hand, and he scored in a variety of ways, showing a feathery touch and explosiveness near the basket.
Uthoff also showed that he was unselfish by allowing Iowa guard Anthony Clemmons to be their team’s main option on offense during Thursday’s PTL game. The 6-1 Clemmons, who will be a sophomore next season, scored 29 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed eight rebounds.
Clemmons and Uthoff already have bonded as teammates but playing together in the PTL is another opportunity for them to get better acquainted.
“Me and Uthoff have a good chemistry together,” Clemmons said. “We actually used to stay after practice and play one-on-one all the time. So we have a great feel. It’s fun playing with him.”
Uthoff will join an Iowa frontline that already is loaded with proven veterans, including 6-8 junior-to-be Aaron White and 7-1 sophomore center Adam Woodbury. White on Monday was named one of 16 finalists at the World University Games tryouts in Colorado Springs, Colo., while Woodbury started every game as a freshman last season.
“It’s a great thing to have when you have that much competition for spots on the floor,” Uthoff said. “It’s just going to make everyone better.”
Uthoff said he has worked hard to improve his game away from the basket in order to be a better fit in Iowa’s deep rotation. He is expected to provide a punch at both small forward and power forward. But first, he’ll provide a punch for a Select Team that is scheduled to play several games in Estonia in July.
“I think I’m more of an outside player than those guys,” Uthoff said of his fellow frontline players at Iowa. “That’s what I’m working on, being more of an outside player.
“Each guy is unique in their own position and in their own way. So I think each complements each other real well.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball