It was only one game in the Prime Time League, but Dom Uhl might have delivered a message with his performance on Thursday.
Uhl played arguably the best among all the Hawkeyes, scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and making 4-of-7 3-point attempts at the North Liberty Community Center.
Nobody expects him to stuff the stat sheet like that in real prime, but to say that the 6-foot-8 Uhl is important to Iowa’s immediate future would be putting it mildly.
Fans are intrigued by Iowa’s six incoming players because they’re new and fresh. They represent the future of the Iowa basketball program and the possibilities that come with it.
They also fill nearly half of Iowa’s roster spots, so it’s reasonable to assume that some of the incoming players will make significant contributions this coming season.
But it seems that Uhl would be the first option to replace all-Big Ten selection Aaron White at power forward. Uhl showed flashes last season as a true freshman, but he played sporadically and mostly deferred to his veteran teammates on offense.
More will be expected from Uhl as a sophomore, partly out of necessity, but also because he’s a year older, a year wiser, and hopefully, with a year of development, a better player.
“I definitely feel more comfortable and more experienced,” Uhl said. “When I look at our freshmen, they remind me of myself last year.”
Uhl has diverse skills that allow him to create shots off the dribble or drive to the basket with equal effectiveness. He seemed more comfortable playing on the perimeter last season while adjusting to the college game.
“I feel like last year I relied on my 3-point shot a little too much,” said Uhl, who averaged 2.1 points per game as a freshman. “So I’m trying to drive more to the basket right now.”
Uhl will have to be more assertive on both ends of the floor this season because White isn’t around anymore, nor is 6-10 center Gabe Olaseni, who also used his eligibility last season. Uhl’s performance could go a long way in determining whether Iowa rebuilds or reloads at the power forward position.
Iowa has starters returning at the other four positions from a team that finished 12-6 in the Big Ten and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2001.
“People definitely have to step up this year,” Uhl said. “There is a lot to look forward to this year.”
Gaining weight and strength is part of Uhl’s preparation for a bigger role. He has gained about 15 pounds since becoming a Hawkeye and now weighs about 215 pounds.
“I feel a lot stronger,” Uhl said. “I’ve gotten stronger this summer. I’ve gained weight. I get pushed around less, so that helps.”
Uhl has used an old-fashioned approach to gaining weight.
“I’ve just eaten like crazy and just lifted,” he said.
Uhl is from Germany, but he attended his school in New Jersey where he blossomed into a high-major recruit. He led his high school team to 28 and 29 victories in consecutive seasons.
He caught the attention of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and ultimately picked the Hawkeyes over nearly a dozen scholarship offers from schools that included Boston College, George Mason, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State and Temple.
The chance to fill the void left by White probably was used to entice Uhl during the recruiting process. That opportunity is now here, so it’s up to Uhl to seize it.