NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa – On display in the Prime Time League this summer is a new and improved Peter Jok.
Just ask him.
“I’m just ready for whatever challenge comes,” Jok said Thursday.
Midway through his career as an Iowa basketball player, the 6-foot-6 Jok claims to be in the best shape of his life.
He says his defense and his ball-handling both have improved.
His perimeter shot also has been falling at a pace this summer that’s impressive even for a gifted sharpshooter like Jok.
“My shot is really good right now,” said Jok, who shot 42 percent from 3-point distance (13-of-31) in the month of February last season.
This new and improved Peter Jok also includes a position change, according to Jok. He said Thursday that he will play more at small forward this coming season after playing mostly shooting guard as a freshman and sophomore.
“I’m going to play the three this year,” Jok said. “I don’t feel like I have any challenges. I feel like I can defend anybody. I feel like I have mismatches (at small forward).”
Jok’s ability to play two positions means that he could be a factor regardless if Iowa coach Fran McCaffery uses a big or small lineup in response to individual matchups.
Iowa’s bigger lineup could feature Jok at shooting guard, either Mike Gesell or Anthony Clemmons at point guard and a frontline of 6-9 Jarrod Uthoff, 6-8 Dom Uhl and 7-1 Adam Woodbury.
Or Jok could play as part of a three-guard lineup with Clemmons and Gesell, both of whom are listed at 6-1.
“That’s probably our go-to lineup,” Clemmons said of the three-guard lineup. “I always look at it as guard play is going to win you a championship no matter what.
“Uthoff is going to get his. Woody is going to get his. But at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to the guard play.”
Jok said there isn’t much difference between playing shooting guard or small forward in McCaffery’s system.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Jok said.
Another part of the new and improved Peter Jok is having a healthier diet. His weight hasn’t fluctuated much – he said Thursday that he weighs 202 pounds – but his eating habits have changed for the better.
“I’m still working on eating better, but that’s the hard part,” Jok said. “It’s a process. I have to still work on that. It’s really tough because all the places we go to eat with the team have really good food. But I’m working on that, too.”
Jok is among four starters returning from an Iowa squad that finished 12-6 in the Big Ten last season and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2001.
However, the one missing piece is all-Big Ten forward Aaron White, who led Iowa in scoring and rebounding last season as a senior.
White’s absence will put more of the scoring burden on Jok, who averaged 7.0 points per game as a sophomore last season.
“Me and Jarrod (Uthoff)have to be the two main guys scoring,” Jok said. “I’m good with that. And I’m going to do my best on that, too.”
Scoring never has been a problem for Jok. It’s the other end of the court where he has struggled in college.
“I always knew that defense was about how bad you want it,” said Jok, who graduated from West Des Moines Valley High School. “And for me to stay on the floor a lot, I needed to defend. I needed to work on all my game, not just shooting. So I took it as a challenge to be a better defender, and that’s what I’ve been working on.”
Clemmons praised Jok for putting in the time and effort to become a better defender. Clemmons is arguably Iowa’s best defensive player on the team regardless of position.
“That’s something he’s worked on,” Clemmons said of Jok. “And I will always applaud him. We try to help each other on defense. He helps me. He’s a bigger body. And he can shoot the heck out of the ball.
“So he’s a tough guard. And me being shifty, that helps him with his lateral quickness. There are not a lot of 6-5 guys who are as shifty as me or as quick as me. So we help each other.”
Iowa will be fortunate to have several players on next season’s roster in addition to Jok who are considered talented outside shooters. That includes redshirt freshman shooting guard Brady Ellingson and incoming freshman shooting guard Andrew Fleming. They scored 22 and 37 points, respectively, in their PTL game on Thursday.
“They’ve been shooting real well so far,” Jok said of Ellingson of Fleming. “And I told them, you have to work on defense if you want to play next year. So if they get it defensively, I think they’ll help us a lot because they can really shoot it.”