NORTH LIBERTY — Jarrod Uthoff’s smooth, almost effortless style of basketball belies the killer skill set that he brings to the court.
“He’s a match-up nightmare for opposing teams,” Iowa guard Mike Gesell said. “He’s 6-9, 6-10, long, tremendous shooter. He’ll be able to create some match-up problems for us. He can defend, too, so he’s really going to help us out this year.”
Uthoff, an incoming Iowa sophomore, is versatile. He can shoot from the outside. That includes the 3-point arc, but more importantly, mid-range jumpers. He knocks down shots from the perimeter at 12 feet and just outside the paint.
“He’s really a talented player,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery told The Gazette this week. “His length impacts the game in so many ways. As a shot-blocker, as an offensive rebounder with deflections. What I like about him is, he’s really a tough kid mentally. And he is a scorer. He can score, and he can shoot 3s. He can shoot pull-ups, he can shoot eight-footers off the glass, four-foot hook shots, finish with either hand, dunks anything around the basket.”
You can’t under-represent Uthoff’s toughness card. He was named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball in 2011 after averaging 26.2 points for Cedar Rapids Jefferson. He signed with Wisconsin, red-shirted a year and decided to leave. After a high-profile dust-up with Badgers Coach Bo Ryan, Uthoff was restricted from playing at 26 different schools. Eventually, most of those restrictions subsided — except for those within the Big Ten.
Uthoff still picked Iowa and could not earn a scholarship. He paid his own way, sat out a second straight season and was forbidden to travel with the team. So he put on a little weight — about five pounds — gained considerable strength (he went from skinny to defined) and grew a tad, too. He now stands between 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10 depending on if he’s wearing shoes, he jokes.
He’s also motivated.
“I’m mature. I’ve gotten stronger. I’m working on my ball handling,” Uthoff said. “I think I’ve gotten substantially better.
“My whole game is better than a year ago. Every facet of my game is better.”
In Prime Time League action, Uthoff naturally displays every skill. He goes up for rebounds in a crowd and dunks with authority. He knocks down shots and passes to open teammates. He defends and he’ll screen, which rarely takes place in the PTL.
McCaffery likes his versatility. Uthoff can play multiple front-line positions and could move to off-guard in a pinch. It’s probable he’ll battle senior Melsahn Basabe for a starting position. It’s even more likely Uthoff sees the court for more than 20 minutes a game.
“He’s a complete player,” McCaffery said. “He does a lot of things to help your team when he’s on the floor.”