Jarrod Uthoff ended almost two months of speculation Wednesday night when he announced his decision to play basketball for the University of Iowa.
Uthoff, a 6-foot-8 forward and a Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate, will sit out this season as a transfer and be eligible for three seasons at Iowa beginning in 2013. He red-shirted last year with Wisconsin and will pay his own way to school next year after the Badgers restricted him from transferring within the Big Ten Conference.
The next question for Uthoff and the Hawkeyes is how will he fit in? In 2013-14, Iowa is slated to roster seven post players (without attrition) and only two will be seniors. Five players fit the power forward role, but most can play multiple positions.
It’s likely top-50 recruit Adam Woodbury (sophomore in 2013-14) will be the team’s primary center that year, although the team is high on (junior) Gabe Olaseni’s progress. (Senior) Zach McCabe started almost the entire season at center last season, but his versatility is his best asset in the future. McCabe can play three positions and was the most physical player on the roster last year, a necessary trait in the Big Ten. He’s not giving up time or a position without a fight.
At power forward, Iowa boasts (senior) Melsahn Basabe, (junior) Aaron White, (sophomore) Kyle Meyer and (sophomore) Uthoff as well as McCabe. Basabe and White previously were members of the Big Ten’s all-freshman team and both boast different skill sets. Basabe provides a physical presence as a shot blocker, inside rebounder and scoring threat. He struggled at times last year, but Coach Fran McCaffery said this spring Basabe has become a leader and diligent worker.
White brings explosive play at both ends of the court. He was one of the Big Ten’s top 20 players by the end of the season and the stronger he gets, the more he’ll improve. On the I-Club circuit this spring, McCaffery told patrons of White getting locked in the team’s new practice facility and sleeping in the locker room.
“He was here 10 days and shot 13,000 shots,” McCaffery said. “That shows you the commitment that he has.”
Meyer (6-10) has a chance to be the real sleeper. He was McCaffery’s first commit in the upcoming class and can play both low and high in the post.
Uthoff fits McCaffery’s scheme because he’s lean, athletic, can rebound and score both inside and outside. He led the state in scoring at 26.1 as a senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson. He was a three-star recruit by Rivals and ranked 149th in the country (31st at power forward). His offer list was strong and included Wisconsin, Iowa, Iowa State, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern, Virginia and Arizona State as well as mid-major powers Butler, Creighton and Northern Iowa.
Uthoff was the state’s Mr. Basketball and The Gazette’s player of the year in an area that includes Iowa guard Josh Oglesby, guard Wes Washpun (Tennessee, now UNI) and North Carolina recruit Marcus Paige (in my opinion the best prep basketball player in Iowa high school history). Uthoff’s former coach, Bo Ryan, saw him playing a nice role with the Badgers last season.
“He’s grasped our concepts as fast as anybody that we’ve had,” Ryan said at the time. Ryan called Uthoff “the most consistent” of his incoming freshmen last fall, saying “He’s one of those guys that if we went on the playground, you pick your five, I pick my five, he’d be picked because he knows how to play. He’s got a good feel for the game, and he’s hungry to learn.”
Uthoff gives McCaffery options in 2013-14 because his skill set is different from the other forwards. He’s a terrific outside shooter, which could allow him to move at times to small forward. His body type is comparable to White, but they play a little differently. Uthoff isn’t as physical as Basabe or McCabe nor a true center like Woodbury or Olaseni. But barring an injury, Uthoff will get on the court and compete for a sizable amount of playing time, likely in the 20-minute range.
Uthoff will leave Iowa with one available scholarship for that season, and you can bet it’s headed straight to the off-guard position. Iowa brings in Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons at the point this summer, and both will be sophomores in 2013-14. Devyn Marble (senior) was the Hawkeyes’ most improved player last year and is a ball-handling off-guard. Oglesby (junior) can bring up the ball but his best attribute is his outside shooting ability. Pat Ingram (sophomore) is a gritty wing player who elevates everybody’s game around him by all accounts.
Iowa will have six sophomores that season, three of which were ranked in the top 150 by Rivals. Woodbury (50) and Gesell (100) were four-star recruits and Uthoff (149) was a three-star, as were Meyer, Ingram and Clemmons.
Looking ahead, it’s easy to forget Iowa was 10-22 in 2009-10 and 11-20 in 2010-11. That’s quite the turnaround.