Uthoff hopes to silence nerves in Iowa debut

With the 'Franscript' of Iowa's men's basketball news conference

Published: November 6 2013 | 3:32 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 11:05 pm in

IOWA CITY Jarrod Uthoff barely conceals his excitement for Fridays basketball opener against UNC-Wilmington.

The 6-foot-10 Iowa sophomore watched two different groups of teammates play while he quietly offered encouragement. He sat in a suit last year at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and cheered on his teammates, one season after transferring from Wisconsin. It was uncomfortable, and hes thrilled his waiting game is now over.

Its not easy to sit on the sideline. You get used it, Uthoff said. Sunday night, it was like, Its finally here. It was a little unreal.

Uthoff, a Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate, played 21 minutes in Iowas exhibition win against Augustana (Ill.). He was 1-of-4 from the field but sank four free throws, totaling six points. As expected, he did a little of everything: two rebounds, two steals, an assist, a block and no turnovers.

But he was apprehensive, especially early in the game. He missed his first shot and passed up other opportunities.

I was a little nervous stepping out there for the first time, Uthoff said. But the more I played, the more I got comfortable.

I definitely need to be more aggressive.

Uthoff settled into his role when he re-entered the game before halftime. He was solid in the second half, and Coach Fran McCaffery expects his confidence will grow.

I just keep encouraging him to shoot the ball when hes open, to drive the ball, just go play, McCaffery said. Dont be trying to make it a game of perfect. Its not what it is. Just trust his talent and rely on his instincts. Hes got really good instincts on how to play, and he can really score. So go score, dont turn shots down and try to get closer and then you drive into packs of people, then you get all jammed up and turn it over. Just take whats there, and thats easier said than done sometimes when you havent played a regular game.

Uthoff is Iowas second forward off the bench behind senior Zach McCabe and likely will enter alongside center Gabe Olaseni. Uthoff is the Hawkeyes most versatile player but feels most comfortable playing small forward. He can post up on centers, dribble, pass from the perimeter and take shots from anywhere. Hes also a solid defender.

Hes almost 6-10 so he can do a lot of things on the floor, Olaseni said. He can play two through five, actually one through five, because he can handle the ball. Its just exciting to have someone with that versatility on your side.

"Ive seen his confidence grow, his game evolve some. Im just excited for the point for where it comes together for him and he starts executing offensively and defensively.

Uthoff was the states Mr. Basketball as a Jefferson senior and averaged 26.2 points a game. He signed with Wisconsin and elected to red-shirt in 2011-12. At seasons end, Uthoff opted to transfer. Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan initially restricted Uthoff from contacting up to 26 schools, but Wisconsin officials eventually trimmed to list to include only Big Ten schools.

Uthoff and Iowa coaches were not allowed to contact one another until Uthoff stepped on campus during the 2012 fall semester. Uthoff had to pay his own way for one year and was unable to travel with the team last season.

Now, Uthoff has a full scholarship and travel privileges. Hes got built-in support from relatives and acknowledges fan expectations are high for him.

Its a good thing because it just encourages me to do whatever I can on the court, Uthoff said. It encourages me to get better.

"My whole games better. A, Ive put on some weight. Ive gotten a lot stronger, my handles have improved, my shots improved. My ability to create my own shot has definitely improved.

McCaffery expects Uthoff will become a fan favorite.

I think everybody appreciates a guy who really wanted to be here, and they know hes talented, McCaffery said. He was Mr. Basketball in Iowa, and hes going to be great. But he might have a bump in the road or two, but I think our fans will stay with him as he goes through that.


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