IOWA CITY — Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery offered Peter Jok a scholarship three years ago when the Des Moines-area athlete was national phenom.
McCaffery and his staff kept in touch with Jok after he suffered a torn patella tendon his freshman basketball season. Iowa’s coaches stayed in contact when Jok had surgery to repair the tendon after his sophomore year. They remained interested when Jok struggled through a subpar junior season.
Their loyalty paid off for both the program and Jok on Wednesday. Jok, a 6-foot-6 senior combo guard at West Des Moines Valley, officially signed his letter of intent to play at Iowa in 2013. He’s the only freshman to sign with Iowa next year. Current red-shirt freshman Jarrod Uthoff, who is sitting out the season after transferring from Wisconsin, will receive Iowa’s other scholarship.
“We had only one scholarship, I think there was a lot of concern that, hey, do they really want (Jok)?” McCaffery said. “What are going to do with that one scholarship, especially when Jarrod came because he took the other one.
“We loved this kid from day one. Any time you have one, there’s going to be a little bit more trepidation on who you offer. But we just kept coming back to Peter Jok on this one.”
Jok, a Rivals’ three-star prospect, played in 19 games last year and averaged 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds. Jok averaged 18.5 points and 7.0 rebounds game and was second team all-state as a sophomore at Des Moines Roosevelt before transferring to Valley, where he’s coached by former Iowa guard Jeff Horner.
McCaffery said Jok can play four positions, including point guard, and can adapt to any situation on the floor. McCaffery likes Jok’s ability to post up, pass and, especially, shoot from the outside.
“He’s really got a complete skill set,” McCaffery said. “As we’ve seen his athletic ability come back in the last six months, now you’re talking about somebody who has the chance to be really special.”
Jok’s knee injury kept several major programs away from him, and McCaffery described it as a 15-18 month rehabilitation, longer but less severe than an ACL recovery.
“I think we really had a thorough and open dialogue with Peter and his family,” McCaffery said. “It starts there. He came down and brought all of his information down, X-rays and MRIs and we had doctors review it. There was no hesitation whatsoever.”
McCaffery and his staff watched Jok play several times at Valley, Des Moines Roosevelt, the All-Iowa Attack in AAU and in open gym sessions. Jok confirmed that his knee was sound in an awkward sequence during a workout.
“He ran a guy down from the back and pinned his shot above the square and landed funny,” McCaffery said. “Then he popped back up and ran down the floor like nothing happened. It was good to see him go through that experience.
“He had to pass the test in our mind as this is a bona fide Big Ten player who can help us win a championship. In fairness to him, if we felt anything other than that, then we shouldn’t recruit him. We should let him go somewhere else.”
Jok, a Sudan native, told The Gazette when he committed in September that he appreciated McCaffery not backing off when he suffered his knee injury.
“They stayed loyal to me before my injury and after my injury,” Jok said. “They’re like one big family. I just want to be part of something special coming up. Coach Fran has a plan, man. I want to be a part of that plan.”