Uthoff shines despite unusual circumstances

BY KYLE MANN | JULY 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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The first round of the Prime Time League playoffs took place on July 17, and as the third through sixth seeds played their elimination games, the top two seeds enjoyed a bye week. The teams wanted to play a casual game to give their legs some burn, but it seems that some of the players got the “casual” memo and missed the “game” part.

Dan Ahrens’ team, led by Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff, finished the season atop the standings and was slated to take on second-seeded Ron Nove’s team in a game with no bearing on the standings. The only problem was, Ahrens was unable to make it to North Liberty, and neither did all but four of his players.

“I got a text from [Commissioner] Randy [Larson] before the game and he asked if I could coach Dan’s team,” interim coach Kevin Lehman said. “I’ve filled in for other coaches before. Coach [Ray] Swetalla had a blood clot up in Waterloo two weeks ago, so I filled in for him, too.”

Lehman had his own elimination game to prepare for at 7:30 p.m, but at 6 p.m., he held the reins to the league’s top team or at least a roster vaguely resembling it.

Ahrens’ top performers — Uthoff, Northern Iowa’s Jeremy Morgan and Bennett Koch, and Dondre Alexander — were the lone four representatives of the silver team warming up in the North Liberty Community Center when everyone realized something quirky was going to have to happen.

“They told us last week that this game didn’t count, so I think a lot of people just didn’t show up,” Kyle Haber said.

Haber normally plays for Nove’s squad, but he was anointed as the guy who would switch teams and give Lehman’s team a starting, and finishing, (and full-time) lineup to get a game in.

“We only had four guys to start with,” Lehman said. “So I tried to use some time-outs to keep everyone fresh. Kyle did well. Bennett Koch was very impressive inside; he’s got soft hands and good length.”

Predictably, despite solid performances from the players in attendance, Nove’s team defeated Lehman’s, 103-96. In the loss, Uthoff continued his impressive summer and welcomed the opportunity to have to carry the team on his shoulders.

Uthoff poured in 27 points, giving him three-straight games with 25 points, on 10-of-20 shooting, 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. He also continued his dominance on the boards with 12 rebounds, and his season-low 1 assist is evidence that he assumed the role of shot creator for his short-handed squad.

Heading into a season in which Uthoff will be called upon to serve a similar role for the Hawkeyes and provide a more significant scoring punch than he was in his sophomore campaign, the 6-8 swingman doesn’t shy away from the pressure.

“There’s always pressure when it comes to this game,” he said. “You just try to take it in stride; too much can hurt you, but a little bit can really motivate you and get you going. I embrace it, personally. It keeps me motivated and keeps me hungry to work harder.”

Uthoff posted efficient scoring numbers last season, but he has appeared dominant in Prime Time this summer and seems to have gained the confidence to vault him to becoming an impact player in the Big Ten.

“I was way too timid last year. I was timid and didn’t get really get in the flow of the game too much,” Uthoff said. “I’m getting more and more comfortable, and I think you’ll see that out of me next season.

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