J.R. Koch

Forward, 1996-1999

March 25, 2015

Written by Mitch Smith

In the world of real estate, J.R. Koch is head and shoulders above the competition.

At 6-10, finding another real estate agent with Koch’s physical stature would be a tall order. Wisecracks aside, the Iowa center from 1996-99 has reached great heights in the industry.

Koch, 38, has spent the last nine years as a residential and commercial agent at Jim Maloof Realty. Located in Peoria, Illinois, the company is Central Illinois’ largest and most successful independent realtor. The former Hawkeye has been so instrumental in the realty company’s success that he was promoted to vice president of corporate sales about three years ago.

His passion for real estate began at an early age. His mother often had housing magazines laying around while he was growing up, and Koch said he was always intrigued by floor plans and architecture.

After six years of professional hoops, spent primarily overseas, the married father of two boys returned to his home state of Illinois and got his real estate license.

“No day is the same,” Koch said of his job. “I’m not a nine to five, sit behind the desk kind of guy. I like the variety, and the fact that it’s a competitive field. Everyone is out there competing day in and day out with the same goal in mind — trying to get a house sold faster than anyone else.”

While he’s moved up quickly within the company, he continues to demonstrate the same selfless attitude he displayed on the basketball court. It doesn’t matter what role he plays, Koch said, the ultimate goal is to make the company as successful as possible.

Koch embodied dependability during his time with the Black and Gold. He never missed a game during his four years with the program — appearing in 125 consecutive contests.

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Kent McCausland, Koch’s teammate and roommate at Iowa, remembered a time when the Hawkeye big man cut off his own cast for a broken thumb.

“There were times the training staff would tell me I could sit out,” Koch said. “My mentality was to go out there and provide something on the court if I could. I took a lot of pride being a part of that group and trying to make us successful.”

Iowa reached the NCAA tournament three times during his collegiate career, including the school’s most recent Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1999.

Koch was Iowa’s second-leading scorer and top shot blocker on that 1999 squad. He scored 891 points during his collegiate career, and his 92 career blocked shots puts him in a tie for ninth on the school’s all-time list.

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His skill set was unique for a 6-10 big man. Koch was a threat from 3-point range, he ran the floor well and was an above average passer for a player his size. All of these qualities made him especially versatile in Dr. Tom’s system, McCausland said.

“J.R. was always ready to contribute in any role that he could for the team,” McCausland said. “As a senior all of our big men had to take a reduced role because we had four really good big guys. (Jess) Settles, J.R., Guy (Rucker), and Jake Jaacks all brought unique talents to our Sweet Sixteen team.”

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After a strong senior campaign, he became one of just eight Hawkeyes in the last 25 years to be selected in the NBA Draft, taken 46th overall by the New York Knicks. Although Koch never appeared in an NBA game, he enjoyed a lengthy career overseas playing professionally in Belgium, France, Turkey, and Italy.

Basketball remains a part of Koch’s life. His high school retired his jersey this past January, he coaches his 9-year-old son’s team, and he still follows Hawkeye hoops.

Koch said he has great respect for head coach Fran McCaffery. Prior to choosing Iowa, Koch was also heavily recruited by Notre Dame — where McCaffery was a top assistant at the time.

The former Iowa center recalled a conversation with McCaffery after he had been introduced as Iowa’s new basketball coach.

“It was a special moment when he got announced as the new coach at Iowa,” Koch said. “He told me, ‘I can see why you picked Iowa. I get it.’ The people around the state make it such a special place to play. The fans really care about the Hawkeyes.”

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