IOWA CITY — Iowa senior Jarrod Uthoff’s journey from two-year practice player to all-Big Ten performer was paved in both talent and work ethic.
Uthoff, a 6-foot-9 forward, boasts a rare blend of inside-outside proficiency that made him one of the Big Ten’s most difficult match-ups. He averaged nearly 19 points, more than two blocks and two 3-pointers a game and was unanimously named first-team all-Big Ten by both media and coaches on Monday.
Few players spend the time on his craft as Uthoff. Friday, he didn’t like how his shot was falling in practice. He kept working at it. Ultimately, that paid off on Saturday night when he scored 29 points, grabbed seven rebounds, pulled away four steals and blocked three shots in 38 minutes. He joined LSU forward Ben Simmons as one of only two players with that statistical line this season.
“I wasn’t making anything (Friday), so I stayed after and worked on my form,” Uthoff said. “I shot a lot, even when the other guys were stretching. I got a feel for the ball again and a good feel for my shot.”
Among Big Ten players, Uthoff finished second in scoring (18.8), tied for 10th in rebounding (6.5), first in blocked shots (81) and eighth in free-throw percentage (81.8). In league games, Uthoff was second in scoring (19.2), 11th in rebounding (6.6), first in blocked shots (46) and ninth in free-throw percentage (81.4). He also was named to the all-defensive team.
He’s such a difficult match-up, even the league’s best defensive coaches struggled to find ways to defend him. In two wins against Purdue, Uthoff combined for 47 points, including 25 at Mackey Arena. Purdue Coach Matt Painter used 2015 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Rapheal Davis (6-5) on Uthoff in the first game, then switched to power forward Caleb Swanigan (6-9) for the second. Neither player could contain Uthoff.
“No matter who guards Uthoff, I thought he had the upper hand on them,” Painter said after the second loss. “He’s a tough cover. He’s put them at another level.”
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Uthoff has helped elevate No. 18 Iowa (21-9, 12-6 Big Ten) to consecutive 12-win seasons in league play for only the third time in school history. In only three seasons, Uthoff ranks 20th in Iowa career scoring (1,238) and fourth in blocked shots (172). He’s one of only three players to total more than 1,000 points and 150 blocks. Nationally, he’s the first player since Duke’s Shane Battier (2000-01) to average two blocks and two 3-pointers a game.
“I’m just thrilled for him because he’s had an interesting journey,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “You talk about accomplishment and we all know that you just don’t end up there. You work your way to get there. He’s one of the most incredible workers I’ve ever been around.”
Uthoff was the state’s Mr. Basketball at Cedar Rapids Jefferson after the 2011 season when he averaged 26.2 points. He signed with Wisconsin but red-shirted. Uthoff then left and transferred, where he sat out another year and paid his own way. As a sophomore, Uthoff averaged 7.6 points off the bench. Last year he put up 12.4 points and was named third team all-Big Ten.
“In the beginning he had some bumps in the road but really stayed true to who he was, continued to work and continue to believe in himself and he made it happen,” McCaffery said. "I’m just thrilled to be a part of it. But I’m just happy for him.”
Iowa now has had first-team all-Big Ten performers in three consecutive years. Uthoff joins Devyn Marble (2014) and Aaron White (2015).
Iowa junior guard Peter Jok was named to the Big Ten’s second team by coaches and media. Jok averaged 15.8 points a game, an 8.8-point improvement from last season. Among Big Ten players, Jok ranks 10th in scoring, fourth in steals (1.4 per game), seventh in 3-pointers (2.4) and third in free-throw percentage (85.6). Jok scored 20 or more points 10 times this year and has hit his last 21 free throws.
Iowa center Adam Woodbury and point guard Mike Gesell were named honorable mention.
Here are the all-Big Ten teams (Both coaches and media unless noted):
Denzel Valentine, G, Michigan State (player of the year); Jarrod Uthoff, F, Iowa (unanimous); Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana (unanimous); A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue; Nigel Hayes, F, Wisconsin
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Melo Trimble, G, Maryland; Peter Jok, G, Iowa; Malcolm Hill, G, Illinois; Bryn Forbes, G, Michigan State; Matt Costello, C, Michigan State (media); Shavon Shields, F, Nebraska (coaches)
Ethan Happ, F, Wisconsin (freshman of the year); Diamond Stone, F, Maryland; Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana; Jordan Murphy, F, Minnesota; Caleb Swanigan, F, Purdue
ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM (Coaches only)
A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue (player of the year); Jarrod Uthoff, F, Iowa; Rapheal Davis, G, Purdue; Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana; Ethan Happ, F, Wisconsin
SIXTH-MAN OF THE YEAR (Coaches only)
Max Bielfeldt, F, Indiana
COACH OF THE YEAR (Coaches and media): Tom Crean, Indiana
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