What to make of Dom Uhl?
The 6-foot-8 sophomore is one of the most intriguing pieces to Iowa basketball 2015-16 puzzle.
He’s got the size, the athleticism and the versatility to play on the wing or interior.
But the native of Frankfurt, Germany, is still learning the game, in just this third year playing in the United States. And there’s urgency for him to perform: Six newcomers could be wrestling with him for precious playing time.
“He’s not a freshman anymore, so we’ll expect him to do a little bit more on this team,” fourth-year starting point guard Mike Gesell said, “be a little more of a leader.”
Uhl was listed at 195 pounds as a freshman. Word has it he’ll get an official listing around 215 this season. The man has put on some legit muscle entering Year 2.
“I just ate a lot and lifted,” he grinned after a recent 27-point, 10-rebound night at the Prime Time League. “It just happened.”
Uhl knows he’s in an opportunistic spot this season. Iowa lost big-man seniors Aaron White (6-9) and Gabe Olaseni (6-10) from a team that recorded the program’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 2001. To help keep the momentum going, guys like Uhl need to step to the forefront.
Uhl was the ninth man in Fran McCaffery’s nine-man rotation last season. Now, he’ll be competing for a starting spot, and could slide anywhere from small forward to Adam Woodbury’s backup center.
“You’re probably going to see some unconventional lineups. You’ll probably see (Uhl playing the) 3 to 5,” Gesell said. “He’s a versatile player, and he can guard all those positions. So that’ll help him get on the floor.”
Uhl found success in pockets last season. He sank a clutch 3-pointer in what became a 77-75 road win at Minnesota on Jan. 13, and flashed a memorable reverse layup in an electric win over Ohio State four days later.
Like many freshman, though, there was inconsistency in his performance and playing time. McCaffery criticized himself a few times in postgame news conferences that he didn’t give Uhl more minutes.
Uhl wound up scoring just two baskets in Iowa’s final eight games.
“I have to step up,” he said. “I’m definitely trying to do that.”
Uhl hasn’t been home to Germany since before last basketball season. That’ll change in the coming days, as he heads to France as part of the USA East Coast basketball team, which plays against teams from Europe and Africa Aug. 1-9. Iowa has had players on this team five years in a row — Gesell and Woodbury made the trip last summer.
After the trip, Uhl will be reunited with his mother in Frankfurt. He’ll stay there for a while before the returning for UI’s fall semester.
“My mom definitely misses me,” he said, “and wants me to come home more often.”
Uhl and 6-9 forward Jarrod Uthoff played together in the PTL this summer, leading their team to Thursday night’s championship game against a team led by Woodbury. Uhl averaged 21.5 points and 9.1 rebounds, including scoring outputs of 35, 19, 22, 27 and 26 in his last five games.
Uhl agrees his playing style is part Uthoff, part White — but with a lot of work ahead.
“I feel like I’m a mix of those two,” Uhl said. “Jarrod can shoot better than I can. Whitey, he’s an awesome player. I kind of want to do both — the best of both worlds.”
PRIME TIME LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
When, where: 7 p.m. Thursday, North Liberty Community Center (520 Cherry Street)
Entry: Admission is free; parking fills up fast.
The finalists: Westport Touchless Autowash/Beat The Bookstore is led by No. 1 overall PTL draft pick Jarrod Uthoff, a third-team all-Big Ten pick a year ago for Iowa. Uthoff has averaged 23.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game in the PTL. Dom Uhl is the other Hawkeye on the roster, and he is expected to play despite an overseas basketball trip that begins later this week. UNI guard Aarias Austin and former Iowa City West player David DiLeo play supporting roles. ... The Jill Armstrong Team at Skogman Realty is anchored by 7-foot-1 Iowa center Adam Woodbury. He has posted monster PTL numbers, averaging 24.9 points and 14.6 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the floor. Ex-Iowa City West standout Dondre Alexander has been a co-star of this team, with UNI’s Spencer Haldeman and Luke McDonnell and Iowa walk-on Okey Ukah also signficant contributors.