Hawks Lose Out on Uthoff

July 20, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep basketball player Jarrod Uthoff had narrowed his choices down to Iowa, Iowa State, UNI, Butler, Illinois and Wisconsin.  Indiana, Virginia, Arizona State and others had also extended him scholarship offers.

That’s a pretty impressive list to chose from for a player that came somewhat out of nowhere over the course of the last six months, but that can happen at this juncture of a basketball player’s career.

Iowa’s Fran McCaffery and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg have not been at their respective posts for even four months, so they had to get familiar with Uthoff and vice versa in a hurry.

Uthoff has family ties to ISU; his uncle is their all time leading rebounder.  With Iowa, Uthoff would be some 30 minutes away from Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Uthoff chose to blaze his own trail and chose Wisconsin.

I’d like to say he chose the road less traveled, but unfortunately as it relates to the best prep talent in the state as of late, that road has too many travelers on it.

Jason Bohannon left Iowa for Wisconsin five years ago at the tail end of the Steve Alford era.  That felt like a slap in the face to Iowa fans.  Not one of disrespect, just one of an emerging reality of where the program had fallen.

We are all too familiar with that ‘reality’ now, and were hopeful that a change in head coach would immediately usher in a total paradigm shift related to the program.

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The fact is that is not going to happen overnight.  Rob Howe of HawkeyeInsider.com wrote a good piece on this linked here.  When I learned of Uthoff’s decision last night, I felt many of the things that Howe wrote about.

“It’s gonna be a long road,” was the first thing that came to my mind.

As much as we want to see the state’s best and brightest stay here, it might take McCaffery bringing in players from back east or elsewhere, get his up-tempo system off and running and show real signs of progress and success before the local players decide to come back.  More than anyone, they are familiar with the shortcomings that has befallen Iowa and Iowa State, where UNI and Drake have had more success in the past three years than the ‘Big Two’.

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Was Uthoff going to be a program changing recruit?  No.  Would he have been a piece of the greater puzzle?  Yes.  Losing him to Wisconsin, and having to watch him play and likely blossom under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, the way we did with Jason Bohannon, will not be fun to watch.

However, Bohannon would not have enjoyed the success he had in Wisconsin, at Iowa.  His career arc would probably be similar to that of Matt Gatens.  I believe Gatens could have enjoyed an identical career to Bohannon had he been in Wisconsin’s system.  But at Iowa, with so many defections during his career, he has been forced to try to play a role he is not suited for, and that is ‘being the man’ on the court in a scoring fashion.  I am not talking about anything other than basketball here.  But I certainly respect Matt for gutting things out during one of the most tumultuous times in Iowa basketball history.

It’s going to be up to Fran McCaffery and his staff to show signs of life this year, signs of excitement, so they don’t miss out on the in state crop of talent for 2012.

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The in state kids are likely going to take a ‘Show Me’ stance as it relates to the Iowa program, and I don’t think anyone in their right mind can blame them.

That being said, I believe McCaffery will do that, even next year when the team will likely struggle to finish any higher than ninth or tenth in the league.

We knew it was going to take some time and there would be bumps along the way.  But Uthoff’s decision, amidst the positive build up to what could be an historic football season, was a reminder of the work that faces McCaffery and the Iowa basketball program.

I could have done without that for a few more months.

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