Healthier Jok poised to make leap


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It’s no secret the jump from high school to college isn’t an easy for transition for some.

Throw Big Ten basketball into the equation, and that adjustment is going to be seamless for only a small number of people.

Peter Jok is not one of those people. As a freshman, he struggled with his fitness and asthma throughout most of the season, which led to a decrease in minutes. He also was set back by an ankle injury, which caused him to miss some agility drills.

This off-season, he said his conditioning has been the main focus of his training.

“I’ve just been in the weight room with [strength and condition coach Bill] Maxwell, doing a lot of weight stuff,” Jok said.

The sophomore, who averaged 9.4 minutes per game last season, said he’s run more stairs in addition to his increased weight training. Because Jok’s forte is scoring, he’s put more effort in on offense than he has on defense throughout his playing career.

That came to light during his freshman year. It was perhaps most illustrated in Iowa’s play-in to the Round of 64 at the NCAA Tournament. Jok scored 10 points coming off the bench but was limited to just 16 minutes because of his stamina.

“He’s always been a scorer. He goes and gets buckets and can take a possession off here and there and rest on defense a little bit,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “You just don’t have the luxury to do that at this level because you’re guarding somebody who expects to play in the NBA.”

It’s not rare for a young player to have this type of experience when transitioning to the college game.

Although not as much of a scorer like Jok, point guard Mike Gesell recalled his first Big Ten game his freshman year, a 69-65 loss to Indiana in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“I think that’s the most tired I’ve ever been by the first TV time-out,” Gesell said. “It takes a little bit getting used to, and I think maybe that had something to do with it.”

To combat this, he had to treat each practice like it was a game and turn up the intensity, especially when the team scrimmages at the end of each workout.

Jok said he’s done that and made another adjustment to help him. Instead of eating cafeteria food on a daily basis  he now eats better.

“Morning, I’ll probably eat cereal or make eggs for myself. Lunch, I’ll probably go get spaghetti and meatballs or something healthy,” he said. “Then we usually eat team dinner, so there’s a lot of healthy stuff at team dinner.”

If Iowa’s exhibition win over Northwood on Nov. 2 was any indication, things seem to be working out for Jok. He played 17 minutes and was in noticeably better shape, leading the way for Iowa with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.

Yes, that was an exhibition against a small-school opponent, but McCaffery is pleased with where the guard is physically. Now, Hawkeye fans get to see if his off-season of work pays off in Iowa’s season opener against Hampton tonight.

“I think his improvement is what we hoped it would be,” McCaffery said. “Now, he’s got to do it in the games when the games start on Friday.”

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