Uthoff's Choice Should Open Iowa Fans' Eyes

Class of 2011 standout Jarrod Uthoff passed on a rebuilding Iowa program 30 minutes from his home for perennial Big Ten contender Wisconsin. HI.com Publisher Rob Howe looks into the decision, what it means for Iowa and what he says for the state of the Hawkeyes.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Jarrod Uthoff provided Iowa basketball fans with a large dose of reality Monday evening. Even if we felt like the program was headed in the right direction, it was clear much construction remains on the road to success.

The Class of 2011 forward from Cedar Rapids verbally committed to Big Ten rival Wisconsin despite Iowa applying the full court press in recruiting him. One of the more heavily sought-after prospects in Eastern Iowa during the last decade jetted off to Bo Ryan and the Badgers.

Say what you want about Uthoff. You don't think his game fits at Iowa. It's not that big a loss because the Hawkeyes have bigger fish with offers.

That's fine. By saying that, you're putting your trust in new head coach Fran McCaffery and his staff, which also is fine.

Guess what? The Iowa coaches wanted Uthoff. The Hawkeyes players befriended him during play at the local summer league. He came down from Cedar Rapids to run in open gyms with them. The program tried.

In the end, Uthoff, a kid who grew up a half hour from the Iowa campus did the same thing Linn-Mar's Jason Bohannon did five years ago. He left.

"If I would have went to Iowa, they're trying to rebuild and I would have been a part of that, that re-building process," Uthoff told the Iowa City Press-Citizen Monday night. "But if I went to Wisconsin, I'm already going into an established program that already is very good."

Can you blame the kid? He gets four years to live his dream. Being 30 minutes away also gives him a pretty good view on the state of affairs in Iowa City.

Uthoff wasn't going to come here as would Harrison Barnes and carry the rebuilding project. He would have been a very nice piece, though. Wisconsin, Illinois and others would have seen that they can't come into our backyard and pull out talent.

Instead, opposing coaches are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of stealing Linn Mar's Marcus Paige and Sioux City's Adam Woodbury in the ‘12 Class. Maybe Uthoff's exit casts more doubt for them on the condition of the Iowa program. How much progress will they want to see from the Hawkeyes this season and can we realistically expect enough of that to happen?

I get that we all want to be positive about Coach McCaffery. There's a good chance he'll get it done based on his track record. However, it won't be a quick fix and it might take a lot longer than some folks are hoping.

For it to occur, it will take more high level players. A very impressive list of ‘11 recruits holds Hawkeye offers. How good can we feel about any of them coming here when the guy up the street passes? Can we get the players we need to win without having enough good ones to win?

Philadelphia guard Devin Coleman has called Iowa his leader since shortly after McCaffery got the job here. He visited last month and enjoyed it. Still, he's said he'll wait until October to make his decision, which makes one wonder why he is holding off.

We can hope that a few of the guys like Eric Katenda, Ross Travis, Tyler Harris, Paul Jesperson, Trey McDonald and Thomas Gipson want to help rebuild our once-proud program. I wouldn't say we're the favorite with any of them.

This thing is messy, ya'll. Uthoff's decision is not the end of the world or cause for hitting the panic button. It's concerning.

It's a long way up from the bottom. And sometimes those first few steps are the hardest to take.


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