Two of Jarrod Uthoff’s biggest fans have never seen him play in an organized basketball game.
“We know Jarrod Uthoff, the person,” said Amy Kuhn, “and the person is amazing.”
Much has been made over the last two months regarding Uthoff’s decision to transfer from the Wisconsin men’s basketball program. The player from Cedar Rapids Jefferson was back in the news again last week when he announced he would be a walk-on with Iowa’s basketball team when the fall semester begins.
But while Hawkeye fans may salivate over what the 6-foot-8 Uthoff could add to the Hawkeyes once he’s eligible to start play in the 2013-14 season, he is more than an athlete.
For one thing, he is an excellent student. He had a 4.0 GPA at Jefferson, and reportedly was upset at himself when he got a ‘B’ in a course at Wisconsin.
For another, Uthoff has seldom passed up chances to assist others. While at Jefferson he was a peer-helper for Special Olympics events. He was a Read-A-Long mentor at Taylor Elementary School. He was a Little J-Hawk basketball camp volunteer in each of his three years at Jeff.
It was at one of those camps last spring where Amy Kuhn and her then-8-year-old son, Lincoln Kuhn, first met Uthoff.
“Lincoln and Jarrod got paired up at the camp, the shortest and the tallest,” Amy said. “They hit it off and had a lot of fun. I didn’t even know who he was.
“Then I read something that said was in a Read-A-Long program, and I was thinking maybe he could be the key to Lincoln getting interested in reading. Lincoln had hated reading, and we found out later he had dyslexia, which makes it hard.
“So I sent an email to his Jarrod’s coach, Stu Ordman, asking if Jarrod could spend five or 10 minutes with Lincoln and show him how cool reading is. Because his mom telling him was not working.”
Almost immediately after getting the message, Uthoff called Amy and asked if he could come over to the Kuhns’ house.
“He talked to Lincoln about reading, Lincoln read him a book, and they hung out for two hours,” Amy said. “After Jarrod left, Lincoln said ‘We need to find another book for when Jarrod comes back.’ ”
Uthoff returned in each of the next four weeks to keep Lincoln enthused about reading, and sent him letters of encouragement after leaving Cedar Rapids for Madison last June.
“Lincoln has read every day since,” Amy said. “If it wasn’t for Jarrod, Lincoln wouldn’t be reading. It was a godsend to our house.”
Ordman said Uthoff tried to accomplish several different things with his senior-year Read-A-Long work over eight months at Taylor.
“He tried to share a love of reading with the kids,” Ordman said. “He also tried to share the universe of our high school, and to combat the stereotype of a young jock.
“He was eager to participate. That’s just the person he is.”
Uthoff is from Marengo. He enrolled at Jefferson as a sophomore. He chose the school because he had some AAU basketball friends there and he could live with his sister, Erika Uthoff-Schmuecker, a senior accountant for Transamerica who had a house in southwest Cedar Rapids.
“I think his legacy here should be how much he improved,” Ordman said. “When he first got here, his defense was horrible. At the end of his sophomore year it was just bad. Then it got to adequate, and it was pretty good before he left.
“At Iowa, Jarrod Uthoff will bring a phenomenal work-ethic, a loyalty to his teammates, and creativity on the court. He’s also a pretty good shooter.”
Asked to elaborate about the creativity, Ordman said “I would show the guys what our offensive schemes were and how we’d play in time-and-score situations. We had a lot of improvisation, and Jarrod was gifted at improvising.
“I think Coach (Fran) McCaffery will appreciate and cultivate that ability.”
Ordman then noted another quality he thinks will endear Uthoff to Iowa’s team and its fans.
“He’s just a great guy,” the coach said. “He’ll be an excellent representative to the program and the university.”