IOWA CITY, Iowa – With each standout performance, Iowa senior forward Jarrod Uthoff causes certain questions to be asked.
For one, who does he resemble as an Iowa basketball player?
As a shooter, yes, but it’s hard to say beyond that because Bullard was hobbled by a knee injury during most of his brief career at Iowa?
Question two is just how good can the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Uthoff be?
Simply put, very good.
He’s tall, coordinated and has developed into a prolific perimeter shooter.
And question three is just how high can this veteran Iowa team ascend with Uthoff leading the way and with the other three seniors – guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons and center Adam Woodbury – all playing with poise and passion?
Simply put again, very high, perhaps even to the top of the Big Ten Conference for the first time in over three decades.
Maryland is probably the most talented team in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes aren’t that far behind. And they’re in a great position with victories already over Big Ten contenders Michigan State at home and Purdue on the road this past Saturday.
Uthoff can hold his own physically with any player in the conference. His unusual blend of size, finesse and shooting accuracy separates the former Cedar Rapids Jefferson star from most of the players in the Big Ten.
Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who landed Uthoff out of high school, didn’t turn the Badgers into a national power by recruiting the wrong players. It’s easy to see why Ryan wanted Uthoff, given Uthoff’s rare talent.
Uthoff is currently the only player from a power five conference to average at least 18 points and three blocks per game. He excels at blocking shots in the paint and away from the basket, and with either hand.
Luckily, for Hawkeye fans, Uthoff grew up in Iowa. It’s his home, where his heart is, along with his family and life-long friends.
The fact that Uthoff is thriving right now isn’t just because of his playing ability. He also has fit nicely in the Iowa program as a teammate, and now as a fifth-year senior leader.
Uthoff transferred to Iowa after being redshirted as a freshman at Wisconsin for the 2011-12 season. He came to Iowa at the same time as the current seniors on the team and then had to sit out another season.
From the beginning, Uthoff has played a significant role without over-stepping his boundaries as a player or as a teammate.
But when you are a team’s best player, boundaries expand.
Senior center Adam Woodbury is Iowa’s emotional leader in many ways, but Uthoff also has that role now. He showed it on Saturday against Purdue with Iowa trailing by 17 points at halftime.
“I just told everyone that we’re not out of it,” Uthoff said of his halftime speech. “It’s nothing we can’t come back from.”
Uthoff was right, largely because he was the best player on the floor against Purdue. And that’s saying something considering Purdue’s talented frontcourt.
Uthoff’s personality changes based on whether there is a camera in front of his face. Away from the media spotlight, he is engaging and articulate, a conversation waiting to happen.
Put a camera in front of Uthoff and he sort of shuts down. He isn’t rude by any means. He just isn’t comfortable talking about himself in the media spotlight.
With Uthoff, it’s all about the team. And that’s why he has been such a good fit at Iowa. He brings two important things to the table: talent and humility.
Uthoff would be the first to say that the season is far from over, so let’s hold off with the accolades – unless Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said it before him.
Enjoy and respect the journey because a team with this many talented seniors, including arguably the top player in the conference, doesn’t happen very often.