First timers struggle in Iowa exhibition

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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Put yourself in Jarrod Uthoff’s shoes for a second here. The former Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa redshirted at Wisconsin as a freshman in 2011. Last year, Uthoff transferred back to his home-state school but was forced to sit yet another year on the bench because of NCAA transfer regulations.

More than two years removed from playing in a meaningful basketball game, the sophomore from Cedar Rapids will be asked to be a major contributor for Iowa’s hyped basketball team this season. His performance in Iowa’s 87-65 exhibition win over Augustana (Ill.) showed there’s a little rust to be shaken off in Uthoff’s basketball game.

“He looked nervous to me at the start of the game,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said after the contest. “We all forget, I try not to forget anyway, he hasn’t played in two years. And his first time out there in Iowa uniform, I thought he did some really good things, but it took him a little bit of time to settle down. And what happens is he doesn’t take shots that he normally takes.”

Uthoff finished the game with 6 points, going 1-of-4 from the field and 4-6 from the free-throw line in 21 minutes of play. Uthoff saw time at the 3, 4, and 5 positions.

“You get used to sitting on the sidelines and cheering your team on, you get out there, you get a little nervous,” Uthoff said. “… The more you play, the more comfortable you get. It’s just a matter of time before I get comfortable.”

His teammates recognize the unique struggle posed to Uthoff. Asking a player to be in Division-I shape after a two-year hiatus is a tall order of anybody.

“I can’t even imagine that,” Iowa forward Aaron White said. “I never had a situation like that, so it has to be tough for him. He had the nerves for good reason. I thought he shook them off pretty quickly; by the second half, he was playing his game and playing a little more fluid.”

Uthoff wasn’t the only Hawkeye expected to make an impact this season that showcased some first-game jitters Sunday night.

True freshman Peter Jok — also a former Mr. Basketball award recipient in the state of Iowa — had some struggles during his first appearance in a Hawkeye uniform.

The lights-out shooter went 0-of-6 from beyond the 3-point line and shot just 1-of-7 in 11 minutes of play. To be fair, Iowa as a team struggled mightily from beyond the arc, making just 2 of its 18 attempts against the Division-III opponent.

“Defensively, he was not good,” McCaffery said about Iowa’s lone true freshman. “I thought the good thing was he did show some aggressiveness. He did end up with 6 points, got to the free throw line a couple times, and, like I said, I’d like to see him shoot the ball as soon as he’s open, but he’s going to have to be a better defender at this level to be effective, because the guys he’s going to be guarding in this league, they’re killers.”

Still, Jok put up 6 shots, which shows he’s not one to put his metaphorical tail between his legs following a couple of bricks from long range. And going 100 percent from the charity stripe isn’t something easy for a young’un to do, either.

But unlike Uthoff, Jok said he could attribute his underwhelming performance to the adjustment from playing high school basketball, rather than suffering from a stomach full of butterflies.

“In high school you can shoot slow; now, you need to shoot quicker,” Jok said. “When I get comfortable with my shot, I’ll take more shots. It was just my first game, but it wasn’t any different. There wasn’t much difference. It felt great to be playing for Iowa, but I wasn’t nervous or anything at all.”

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