Just two games into the 2013-14 season the Iowa basketball team has discovered it has a new weapon to utilize against opponents. In fact that weapon is a player who just two years ago was playing for a different Big Ten team. Well, sort of…
His name is Jarrod Uthoff. Currently a redshirt sophomore forward for the Hawkeyes, the former Iowa Mr. Basketball arrived in Iowa City in a less than usual fashion that made national headlines. Besides the unique backstory, he brought a whole lot of game along with him.
Uthoff joined the Hawkeyes two years ago, but this season is his first being eligible to play in games that count. At 6-9, the Cedar Rapids native joins one of the few teams that is not all too unfamiliar with his unique skillset.
Fellow 6-9 forward Aaron White possesses many of the same qualities as his transfer teammate. The two players both have great length, play multiple positions, can handle the ball, and make other players around them better. Uthoff may cede a little athleticism and speed to White, but counters with a superior outside shot and shot blocking ability.
If you have avoided living under a rock so far this college basketball season and know your players, think of a Jabari Parker/Rodney Hood-type on court relationship between the two. BREATHE Duke fans, I merely mean as similar type players coexisting at hybrid positions on the floor at the same time. I’m not projecting these two to be NBA Lottery picks.
Going back to Uthoff, this is a player that has somewhat astonishingly assimilated into live college action after having sat out over two full years without playing a single meaningful minute. He has managed to thrive in his present role coming off of the bench for the Hawkeyes, contributing in a significant manner to both of Iowa’s victories.
With his height and length Uthoff presents matchup problems for the opposition especially with how head coach Fran McCaffery utilizes him. The lanky redshirt sophomore plays most often at the three or four positions, but when Iowa decides to go to a smaller lineup he is also capable of filling in at the five against a team with a less physical inside presence.
For a player his size he handles the basketball well and makes a concerted effort to make the right play for the team. Uthoff has very good touch from the perimeter as well as an unusually smooth pull-up game for a player his size. Thus far he has shown a willingness to utilize his skillset to take advantage of both smaller players inside and larger ones outside.
Uthoff has shot well so far from the field, three point line, and free throw line (50/50/89 percent respectively). However, maybe the biggest surprise to fans has been his play at the defensive end of the court where he has blocked five shots in two contests. He has also shown the ability to rebound well in traffic (7.0 reb/game) despite his relatively slender frame.
The best example of Uthoff’s all-around impact came in the season opener against UNC-Wilmington. He became just the second Big Ten player since the 1996-97 season to open their career with at least 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks in a game. The other? Former number one overall NBA Draft pick Greg Oden. (That’s pretty decent company I’d say.)
Oh, and did I mention that all of Uthoff’s impressive statistics thus far have come with him playing merely 21 minutes per game off the bench?
If he can maintain a level of play at or near his current pace Uthoff could have a claim as one of the best players coming off the bench in America. It also certainly wouldn’t hurt the Hawkeyes’ chances of doing damage in the Big Ten and making a run in the NCAA tournament.
Whether or not you believe Uthoff is all I seem to have just hyped him up to be or not, everyone should appreciate a kid who has persevered and bided his time to make an impact. It speaks to his level of character and the ability of the Iowa coaching staff to garner the trust of their players to know that they will put them in the best position to succeed.
If you ask me, expect to see a lot more of Jarrod Uthoff as the season moves forward, and expect to see his game continue to progress every step of the way.