NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa - At times last season, Jarrod Uthoff played like an all-Big Ten performer. Unfortunately, other nights, the Iowa forward looked like he didn't belong on the court.
Uthoff, a high-level talent coming out of Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Jefferson High in 2011, was matching up against top college competition after sitting out two years. The rust showed up in inconsistency.
The up-and-down campaign still eats at Uthoff. The 6-foot-9, 208-pounder knows he's better than that and understands what it will take to contribute positive results game in and game out for the Hawkeyes.
"I wasn't aggressive last year. A lot of times I was still getting a feel for the game. It was kind of tough because I'd be in there for a couple of minutes and then I'd be taken out. It was hard to get in a rhythm. I think I'll do a better job this year of being more assertive, being more aggressive right off the bat," Uthoff said after a recent Prime Time League game here.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery trusted Uthoff early in '13-14. Despite two redshirts years (one at Wisconsin before transferring and sitting a season), he showed no signs of the layoff in scoring 14 points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking four shots during 19 minutes in the opener against UNC-Wilmington. He averaged 10 points and nine rebounds in his next two outings.
Uthoff continued stuffing the stat sheet throughout the non-conference portion of the schedule. He proved to be a match-up problem for the opposition.
The Big Ten proved much more difficult for Uthoff. He was, by no means, awful, but struggled with the raised level of physical play.
When all was said and done, Uthoff finished fourth on the team in scoring (7.6 PPG) and rebounding (4.6 RPG). His 35 blocked shots ranked second only to Gabe Olaseni's 43.
Uthoff is as talented as any member of the Iowa team. He's skilled, long and athletic at 6-9. Those guys aren't common.
McCaffrey and the Hawkeyes would benefit greatly from Uthoff realizing his potential this winter. They're replacing an NBA Draft pick in guard Roy Devyn Marble. Uthoff possesses the talent to help absorb that loss even though he plays a different position.
When you watch Uthoff dominate in the PTL (no, it's not the Big Ten), you see a player that could help carry a huge part of the Iowa load in '14-15. The key will be what he talked about. He needs to avoid passiveness.
Uthoff can attack the rim with thunderous jams. He can defend threes, fours and some fives with his length and quick-twitch reflexes.
Uthoff does a nice job of posting up and consistently knocks down the 12-15 foot turnaround jumper. If there's a weakness in his game, it's his belief that he's a three-point shooter. He just does not knock down the deep ball consistently enough to justify him taking it unless he's feeling it and it's dropping, kind of like Marble. Big Ten scouting reports will say to force him behind the arc like White.
While White draws fouls driving to the basket, Uthoff can keep defenses honest with his 15-foot face-up. It's not going to get blocked. He also can operate effectively on the low block against forwards and sees the floor well enough to find the open man if he's doubled.
I believe the only think that can stop Uthoff from being one of the better front court players in the conference exists in his head. He needs to believe he can do it and take it to opponents without fear.
Uthoff is a soft-spoken guy. He's a nice guy. McCaffery or his teammates need to tell him that an opposing player said something about his mother, if it comes to that. He's too talented not to excel.