Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, January 7, 2016
No team has been a bigger surprise so far than Iowa. And no player has been as surprisingly impressive as the Hawkeyes Jarrod Uthoff.
The 6-9, 210-pound senior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is averaging a league-high 18.6 points to go along with 6.1 rebounds. The last two times out, Uthoff has scored 25 points in helping the Hawkeyes dump Nebraska and overcome a 17-point deficit at then No. 14 Purdue to prevail. He also had 10 points and six blocks in a win vs. No. 1 Michigan State, which kicked off this surprising 3-0 start to the Big Ten season.
Now, 12-3 Iowa finds itself ranked No. 19 and looking for the program?s first Big Ten regular-season title since 1979.
It has been a quite a start for Iowa and Uthoff, who began his career at Wisconsin before transferring back home to Iowa. And, it looks like Uthoff?s final season could be a special one, as he?s emerging as a legit Big Ten Player of the Year candidate for one of the most surprising teams in the nation. I caught up with Uthoff as he prepped for a game at Michigan State on Jan. 14.
Q: Are you surprised by your start in Big Ten play?
A: I?ve always had confidence in our team. I think we have the ability to make a run. I think our team believes that. And I think that?s important.
Q: Think back to exhibition season, when Iowa lost to Augustana. What were you thinking back then?
A: Augustana is a very good Division II team. They have a shot at winning the national title. You have to look at that as, how we can learn from it? We have a lot of young guys. We played a lot of guys in that game who were still trying to get their feet wet. We have one of the biggest classes of newcomers in the country. A lot of guys learning. I still had confidence we would still have a good team after that loss.
Q: What young players have caught your eye?
A: Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer coming off the bench have been very outstanding for us. And you have Brady (Ellingson) coming in, a very good three-point shooter. Ahmad (Wagner) brings a lot of energy. You go down the line, they all are very good.
Q: How is the chemistry?
A: We have a close-knit group and we bond very well. That?s what makes a good team. You have to click. And I think we all click very well.
Q: Are you a leader?
A: I think everyone has leadership qualities. It doesn?t matter if you are a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. Each person brings their own unique value to a team.
Q: What have you improved the most at?
A: Picking and choosing my spots of when to do things, and having a better understanding of knowing when to do what.
Q: What?s the best part of your game?
A: Probably my ability to play on both ends of the court. The versatility to play inside and outside on both ends.
Q: What do you want to improve at?
A: My game. Any aspect of my game.
Q: You have had some big scoring nights this year, with back-to-back 25-point efforts in the last two games. When was the last time you scored so prolifically?
A: You have to go back to high school, a long time ago.
Q: What?s the best part of playing in Carver-Hawkeye Arena?
A: Playing with teammates you have grown fond of and the chemistry we have developed.
Q: You are a big fisherman. Where do you like to angle?
A: I have fished for walleye a few times in Canada. That was fantastic. I went to Quebec. I went saltwater fishing once, but no bites.
Q: What is the biggest fish you?ve ever caught?
A: Biggest walleye is probably a 30-incher, or so. The biggest catfish I ever have caught is 50 pounds.
Q: Any dream fishing trips?
A: I would like to go west and go trout fishing in those clear streams. Or somewhere in Canada where you don?t see anyone for hundreds of miles. That would be pretty sweet.
Q: Do you stay in touch with any former Wisconsin teammates?
A: I stayed in touch with the guys in my class for a while. Over the years, you go your separate ways and talk less and less. George (Marshall), Frank (Kaminsky) and Traevon (Jackson) a bit.
Q: What were you thinking the last two years when you saw Wisconsin go to the Final Four?
A: I was thinking about the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Q: Can you get Iowa to the Final Four? It has been since 1980.
A: Let?s hope so.
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