IOWA CITY, Iowa – Senior forward Jarrod Uthoff leads the Iowa men’s basketball team with 79 field-goal attempts in six games.
That’s an average of slightly more than 13 shots per game, which apparently isn’t enough to please his head coach.
“I would like him to be more aggressive,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Monday. “He took 15 shots yesterday and he had 22 (points). I’d like him to take 22 shots and get 35.”
McCaffery was referring to Sunday’s 84-61 victory over Wichita State in which the 6-foot-9 Uthoff scored a game-high 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. The victory came in the seventh-place game of the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, Fla.
Iowa lost its first two games in the tournament to Dayton and Notre Dame before rebounding against Wichita State. Uthoff led Iowa in scoring and field-goal attempts in all three games, but MCaffery still has to encourage him to shoot more.
“That’s really just who I am,” said Uthoff, who averaged slightly less than 11 field-goal attempts per game last season. “I’ve obviously taken more shots this year than last year and the year before. Every year I’ve been taking more shots. I’ve been ready to catch and shoot more. It’s just slowly wearing off on me.”
Uthoff’s next opportunity to be more aggressive will come in Wednesday’s game against Florida State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game will start at 8:20 p.m. and is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
His reluctance to shoot despite being arguably Iowa’s top offensive threat is unusual compared to most players.
“Yeah, he’s unique,” McCaffery said. “You’ve got to love that about the kid, though. He’s a winning player.”
Uthoff has been unique since he started playing basketball as a kid. He didn’t hunt for shots then, nor does he hunt for shots now. He likes to share the wealth with his teammates in order to create a winning environment.
“People have always told me to shoot more,” said Uthoff, who was named 2011 Mr. Basketball in Iowa as a senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. “I’m not a selfish guy, so I don’t want to go out and jack up a bunch of shots.
“And so slowly, but surely I just understand the time and place and when to pick your spots and when to move it on. I’ve gotten better at shooting open shots.”
McCaffery has learned to cope with Uthoff’s reluctance to shoot by poking fun at him.
“Just little things you wouldn’t even think of,” Uthoff said of how McCaffery makes fun of him. “Just saying little things to me.”
Uthoff is a rarity in college basketball these days as a fifth-year senior. He was redshirted as true freshman at Wisconsin before transferring to Iowa, where he was redshirted again the next season.
Uthoff believes strongly that unselfishness is one of Iowa’s best attributes as a team. Eight different players already have scored in double figures this season in just six games.
“It’s absolutely critical,” Uthoff said. “Our ability to move the ball along and turn what could be a good shot into a great shot is really great,” Uthoff said.
Iowa’s roster is divided almost in half between veteran players and first-year players, with five freshman on the current roster.
Learning what makes a good shot is a major part of the transition from high school.
“It’s really a key to a lot of things because you take a young guy who shot whenever he wanted to in high school, and now, okay, what’s a good shot?” McCaffery said. “You’re dealing with the shot clock. You didn’t deal with the shot clock before.
“We’ve still got some young guys that are passing the ball with three seconds to go on the shot clock. You really have to be locked into that and know exactly, once it gets under ten, what are we doing offensively? What are we doing defensively? And if you’re coming off the bench, what’s a good shot for you?”