By Luke Meredith AP Sports Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — IOWA CITY — Iowa welcomes back almost everyone from last season’s team, which was one of the deepest in the Big Ten.
The additions of sophomore forward Jarrod Uthoff and freshman guard Peter Jok should make the Hawkeyes one of deepest teams in the nation in 2013-14.
Iowa’s rotation could feature as many as a dozen players — including nine players with at least a year of experience — and the Hawkeyes appear stacked at guard, forward and center.
It’ll be up to coach Fran McCaffery to find ways to utilize Uthoff and Jok as the Hawkeyes push for their first NCAA Tournament bid in eight years. Iowa, which went 25-13 and reached the NIT finals last April, opens the season Nov. 8 against UNC-Wilmington.
“Our style of play is the best way to create substitute situations,” McCaffery said of Iowa’s up-tempo system. “The other thing is to have players who truly want to win and legitimately care about each other.”
Iowa has the luxury of building around a core group of starters led by senior Devyn Marble, who will play a lot more point guard this season, and junior Aaron White.
McCaffery probably won’t need to ask much of Jok or Uthoff early on. But both have the potential for significant roles by the time the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament rolls around in late November.
Uthoff likely has a much better chance of cracking the starting lineup by the opener.
The Wisconsin transfer is a versatile 6-foot-9 wing best known for his contentious departure from the Badgers. Uthoff was named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball in 2011 for Cedar Rapids Jefferson High, and coaches and teammates raved about him last season while he redshirted.
With White a certainty at one forward spot and Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni splitting time at center, McCaffery will have to find creative ways to use Uthoff and senior forwards Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe.
“He’s actually more of a guard than a forward, to be honest with you. He’s a very talented ball-handler and jump shooter,” Basabe said of Uthoff. “He’s one of the more unique players that I’ve been around just for how tall he is and how he’s able to shoot pull-up jumpers and handle the ball.”
Redshirt freshman forward/center Kyle Meyer also enters the frontcourt mix, though it’s hard to see him playing much right away.
Jok, a 6-foot-6 freshman from Valley High in West Des Moines, was considered among the nation’s top prospects in the Class of 2013 before a knee injury. He seems fine now, having led the state’s highest classification in scoring at 23.6 points a game, including 42 percent from 3-point range.
Jok’s defense, like that of most freshmen, likely won’t be where it needs to be for quite some time. But the Hawkeyes struggled on 3s in 2012-13, shooting just 30.5 percent, and Jok will play if he can prove he’s capable of knocking down perimeter shots. Jok and junior Josh Oglesby will vie for time as a spot-up shooter off the bench.
“We know he can shoot the ball in the hole,” McCaffery said of Jok. “What we have to do is make sure he understands that we’re going to go to him. We’re going to set him up. We’re going to put him in a position where he can be successful. But he’s got to play the other end.”
Iowa’s experience level is almost unheard of in modern college basketball, with nine of its top 10 scorers back this season.
“Everybody is ready. They all know they’re going to get their number called. They prepare that way in practice, and they all complement each other in terms of skill set. I think that’s the way we’ve put this team together,” McCaffery said.