The Iowa forward addresses his expectations as the team's lone senior Mark Emmert/Hawk Central
NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. — By the end of his junior basketball season for Iowa, Dom Uhl would barely glance at the basket whenever he held the ball in the front court.
It was a startling turnaround for a player who began the year in the Hawkeyes’ starting lineup. Uhl scored a mere two points in the final eight games, noticeably reluctant to shoot even when unguarded.
“My shot was not on. Sometimes you have games like that. I had a whole year of that,” Uhl said Sunday after playing in the Prime Time League. “It was bad. I feel like I kind of let that get to me, too.”
Uhl was coming off a promising sophomore season, one in which he shot 45 percent from 3-point range while averaging six points a game. Nothing clicked for him as a junior, and Uhl eventually went into a shell on offense, attempting only 97 shots all season and converting them at an unimpressive 35.1 percent rate. He sank only 10-of-42 3-pointers (23.8 percent) and averaged 3.5 points for the season.
Uhl said his struggles took him by surprise.
Iowa's sophomore forward answers that question, and tells what the team is looking for this year from its lone senior Mark Emmert/Hawk Central
“I felt like I put in the time, so it’s definitely frustrating to have that kind of year after that,” he said.
“It was definitely not the year I expected to have. I feel like it kind of helped me in a way because I’m more focused than I was last year, more resilient.”
Uhl, a 6-foot-9 forward with superb athletic ability, is the lone senior on Iowa’s roster. He’s eager to prove that last season was an anomaly, and showed fans at the North Liberty Community Center on Sunday that his talent hasn’t deserted him, putting up an easy-looking 24 points and nine rebounds in his team’s overtime win.
Uhl said he’s working on adding muscle but also balance to his shooting form. Iowa assistant coach Andrew Francis has been reminding Uhl that his accuracy suffers because he has a tendency to drift to his right.
What Uhl is not concerned about is being Iowa’s elder statesman.
“I don’t really see a difference, to be honest,” he said when asked about being the senior on a team brimming with underclassmen. “Just one year older.”
Sophomore forward Tyler Cook, a budding team leader, echoed that sentiment. He said the young Hawkeyes are merely looking for Uhl to provide the type of “wow” moments of which he's capable.
“His athleticism, his quickness, is off the charts,” Cook said of Uhl. “You’ll see Dom go get a rebound above the white square (on the backboard). It’s just crazy the stuff he can do off the bounce without the ball.
“We’re excited to make sure he’s in the mix.”
It’ll be a deep mix among post players as the Hawkeyes add freshmen Luka Garza and Jack Nunge to a front court that already includes Cook, Cordell Pemsl, Ahmad Wagner and Ryan Kriener.
“I think we’ll have some figuring out to do,” said Cook, who is almost certain to be the starting power forward. “I think it’s a good problem for us to have because with so many skilled bigs, so many things that we can do that the next man might not the best at. So I think inside we’re going to be really good this year.”
If there’s not room for Uhl inside, that’s fine with him. His game has long been built on slashing to the rim or launching 3-pointers anyway.
“I can handle the ball, so I feel like I can maybe take a little pressure off the guards. Just bring the ball up, push it and just rebound it,” Uhl said.
Uhl is among several Hawkeyes who think they can help fill the void left by graduated shooting guard Peter Jok — last year’s Big Ten Conference leading scorer. Based on Uhl’s sophomore performance, that’s not a far-fetched notion.
But first, Uhl gets to play the part of tour guide. Iowa’s European trip in August includes a stop in Uhl’s hometown of Frankfurt, Germany. Uhl wants to be sure the old part of town — the one tourists don’t always see — is on the itinerary.
“I talked to all my friends back there and I definitely want to show my team my city,” Uhl said. “It should be a good time.”
Uhl is hoping it’s the beginning of more good times to come, especially if he regains his shooting touch and helps lead Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament.