CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Jefferson senior Jarrod Uthoff opted against subtlety when announcing his college decision Monday night.
Uthoff wore a black Wisconsin T-shirt to a hastily called news conference at Eastern Iowa Airport. He gave no hint that it was a trick when he sat in front of the cameras.
“I’m going to Wisconsin,” he announced. “I’m going to be a Badger.”
With those words Uthoff became the second player in three months new Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery had focused on only to slip away to Wisconsin. In April former Iowa signee Ben Brust was released from his basketball scholarship and later signed a financial arrangement with the Badgers. Uthoff also is the second prominent metro-area player in the last five years to decline Iowa’s scholarship offer for Wisconsin.
As part of his decision-making process, Uthoff sought advice from Jason Bohannon, a former Linn-Mar guard who recently concluded his player career at Wisconsin. Bohannon gave Uthoff rave reviews of the campus, which helped Uthoff make his decision.
“He said he had a great time, and he really enjoyed his time at Wisconsin,” Uthoff said.
Uthoff had offers from five Big Ten schools including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern. Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Butler, Virginia and Arizona State were among others offering him a scholarship. He will be able to sign a letter of intent to play at Wisconsin in November.
Uthoff, who stands about 6-foot-8, averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds a game for Jefferson last year. He also had 53 blocks and 34 steals. He led Jefferson in all those categories.
He said Wisconsin is “the best fit.”
“I just think the style of play best fits me at Wisconsin,” Uthoff said. “All the schools I had to choose from were great options. None of them were bad options.
“It was very tough.”
Barnstormers Coach Jamie Johnson said he spoke with Uthoff several times over the last month about his choice. Johnson said he tried to leave his advice open-ended.
“I think it came down to just a comfort level,” Johnson said. “I think over the last month he’s done a lot of research, he’s visited all the schools and obviously Wisconsin must have been the spot that took his heart.”
Jefferson Coach Stu Ordman helped Uthoff establish the final six schools.
“I always felt like if you really know where you want to go, then it’s in your best interest to go ahead make a decision and announce it rather than string it along,” Ordman said. ” Jarrod is very considerate. Part of the motivation in doing it now is so that other schools recruiting players can go to the national AAU tournament knowing that Jarrod is not going to their school.”
Uthoff said McCaffery was the last coach he informed about his decision. He said it wasn’t because Iowa was his second choice; it was because he couldn’t reach him earlier.
Although Wisconsin’s campus is about 165 miles from Cedar Rapids, Uthoff said it’s close enough to home for his parents to attend every game.
“I’m very excited because my family really wanted to come to all of my games,” Uthoff said. “I think going to Wisconsin that can happen.”