IOWA CITY, Iowa – At some point, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and his players will reflect on what they’ve accomplished this season, which now includes making the cover of Sports Illustrated.
There just isn’t time to do it right now with the second half of the Big Ten schedule awaiting, beginning with Wednesday’s home game against Penn State.
“You don’t really want to stop and think, you just want to kind of keep going and try to keep getting better,” McCaffery said Tuesday at a press conference. “It can be a distraction at times. But I think our guys are kind of used to the intensity of what it’s like to play in the Big Ten.
“It’s different. You get a lot of attention no matter what. It’s great when it’s for a positive reason like this. But all you really want to think about is, `okay, how are we going to beat Penn State?’ That’s all we want to think about right now.”
Iowa senior forward Jarrod Uthoff is featured on the SI cover photo, which shows the 6-foot-9 Cedar Rapids native extending his arm to block a shot.
It marks the first time that an Iowa basketball player has made the cover of Sports Illustrated since George Peeples in 1966.
“I think it’s great,” said McCaffery, whose team has won 10 of its last 11 games. “I’m really happy for Jarrod in particular, but for all the guys to be recognized at that level.”
The fifth-ranked Iowa men’s basketball team now joins the 2015 Iowa football team as the focus of Sports Illustrated cover stories. The football team was featured on the cover of SI during its 12-0 regular season.
“I think it’s great for the program,” said Uthoff, who is the focus of the Sports Illustrated article. “Hawkeye athletics is having a lot of success and I’m thrilled about it.”
Uthoff said being on the cover of Sports Illustrated is a team honor.
He was asked Tuesday if he expects his family to buy some copies of Sports Illustrated.
“I’m sure they will,” he said. “They buy all kinds of papers and everything like that.”
Iowa senior point guard Mike Gesell is also shown in the cover photo, but with his back to camera. Gesell is standing nearby on the court as Uthoff stretches to block a shot.
“It’s really cool to get national recognition like that,” Gesell said. “I think it’s a lot of fun for our university with the season football had and now this season that we’re having. It’s an exciting time to be a Hawkeye.”
Gesell said he knew something was up when he was interviewed by Sports Illustrated for an article about Uthoff’s rise to stardom this season.
Uthoff is arguably the leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year at this stage. He leads the Big Ten in scoring and blocks with per-game averages of 18.6 and 2.9, respectively.
“I knew I was going to be in some of the article because I got interviewed for it,” Gesell said. “But I didn’t know that I would be on the (cover) because the story is featuring Jarrod.
“So I got a little bit of stardom, along with him.”
Uthoff appreciates the attention, but he won’t let it become a distraction. He plans to wait until after the season to reflect on everything that he and the team have accomplished.
“You can look back on this after the season,” Uthoff said. “During the time you just have to keep your head to the grindstone.”