By Andrew Kahn
University of Wisconsin basketball player Jared Uthoff became a national story, but not for anything he’d done on the court. The 6’9” forward from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wanted to transfer after one year in Madison. He had been redshirted as a freshman and decided Bo Ryan’s program was not the best fit for him. Uthoff’s case became big news when Ryan blocked him from transferring to another Big Ten school, an ACC school, Iowa State, Marquette, or Florida. Ryan loosened his restrictions to Big Ten schools only, but Uthoff wound up at Iowa anyway. The catch was that he couldn’t suit up for the Hawkeyes last season and couldn’t take a scholarship for the year. He’s back on the court this season and averaging 9.9 points and 5.7 rebounds for No. 10 Iowa.
Uthoff has been critical to Iowa’s resurgence. The Hawkeyes are 15-3 with road losses to Iowa State and Wisconsin and a neutral court loss to Villanova, none by more than four points. They take a three-game win streak into Ann Arbor to face No. 21 Michigan on Wednesday night.
Iowa has been led by upperclassmen Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White, who combine for 30 points a game. On Monday, coach Fran McCaffery talked about the importance of having a third option offensively. “Uthoff is probably the most consistent because of his versatility,” he said, before praising his three-point shooting (12-of-23) and rebounding. “I can play him at different positions and it gives me the versatility to move other people around. He’s a perfect fit for our team and our style of play.”
The 2011 Mr. Basketball in Iowa is long and lean and showed off his array of skills in a brief stretch against Northwestern earlier this month. Midway through the first half, he grabbed a rebound and passed it up the court before receiving the ball on the right wing. He stopped on a dime, going through his legs to create space for a step-back jumper. He assisted on a three the next possession and then stole an errant pass and hit another three. Just like that a four-point lead had ballooned to 11.
Given that Uthoff had not played organized basketball in two years, it’s amazing how quickly he’s stepped into his role. McCaffery, having seen him at practice last season, knew he was capable of this. The only question that remained was whether “the TV lights” would affect him. “He has the sort of personality where nothing really fazes him,” McCaffery said. “Nothing bothers him—not the moment or the crowd, on the road or at home, he’s going to do what he does. If he makes a mistake, it doesn’t linger with him.”
After this season, Uthoff will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. It’s been a long journey to suit up in a college basketball uniform, but he’s made the most of it so far, a key piece to a dangerous team.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local Sports who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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