Iowa hoops: Jok's role, Uthoff's confidence, Ellingson's redshirt
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Six days after a humbling home loss to in-state rival Iowa State, the Iowa basketball conversation shifted to personnel issues.
What about Peter Jok as a starter? What's up with Jarrod Uthoff? Josh Oglesby, same question. Redshirt or not for Brady Ellingson? Gabe Olaseni, ready to go after flying to England for his father's funeral?
Let's start with the starters.
Coach Fran McCaffery said there wouldn't be changes to his opening five — at least not yet.
That means Anthony Clemmons will be Iowa's starter at the "2" guard in Saturday's Big Four Classic showdown against Northern Iowa (9-1) at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, as he has been in Iowa's first 11 games.
But, Jok — one of the few bright spots in Iowa's 90-75 loss to Iowa State that wasn't really that close — is making up some ground. Jok scored 14 points in a career-high 25 minutes against the Cyclones.
McCaffery was asked about whether he saw Jok challenging for his starting five.
"I do. And I want him to," McCaffery said. "If he does, then we're a better team. It's going to make Clemmons better, make him better, make Josh better. I want Josh to do the same thing. I want Trey Dickerson to do the same thing."
Jok recently admitted he challenged the fifth-year Iowa coach to play him more often, saying that he gets into a better flow with increased minutes. McCaffery has responded by dispatching Jok for an average of 22 minutes in Iowa's last three games (that average was 13.8 in Iowa's first eight).
He hasn't made a similar pitch to join the starting five, but the 6-foot-6 West Des Moines Valley product says he's feeling increased confidence with more court time.
Clemmons, meanwhile, has failed to score a basket in three of Iowa's last five games.
"Whatever he does, I believe in him," Jok said. "He's doing whatever is best for the team, even if I don't start."
On a team that desperately seeks outside scoring, Jok has huge potential.
So does Uthoff, who has shown flashes of being that guy for 8-3 Iowa that creates his own offense. But he's been inconsistent – 20 points against Syracuse, two against Northern Illinois.
Uthoff is an icy 35.3 percent (20-for-57) in Iowa's last six games, not the success rate you'd draw up from a 6-9 swingman.
"You've just got to be really careful with him," McCaffery said, "because if he thinks that you're doubting him, he'll stop shooting the ball. And … he's one of my green-light guys."
McCaffery referenced Iowa's self-doubt issues after the Iowa State game. Confidence came up with all four Iowa players who were interviewed Thursday.
On the Uthoff subject, McCaffery said, "OK, what do you do now? I've got a scorer who is missing. Do you shut him down and just tell him to be a passer and rebounder and post-up guy? Maybe. I mean, you could. But he's never going to get out of it if you shut him down. I kind of want him thinking in a more aggressive mode, I guess I would say."
What about Oglesby, a shooting guard who's shooting 22.6 percent? Different issue than Uthoff, McCaffery said, because of Oglesby's better shot selection.
"There are times you say, 'Go hunt some shots. Go get us buckets.' And he's done that," McCaffery said. "You remember the Wisconsin game last year here, he went and got us buckets.
"For him, he needs to see it go in a few times. He did see a few go in the other night (2-for-5 vs. Iowa State), so maybe that will help him."
And on the topic of shooters, true freshman Brady Ellingson qualifies as one – but has been slowed by a foot injury. In five games, he's shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range – a sight for sore eyes for a team hitting 30.3 percent of its shots from deep.
McCaffery has brought up the possibility of a evaluating Ellingson as a medical redshirt candidate, but on Thursday said, "the redshirt was never really on the table. He's just playing.
"He'll play Saturday. I think he really, more than any other time, is looking like himself."
Olaseni will play against UNI, too. He got back to the U.S. late Wednesday night from London after attending his late father's funeral. McCaffery said Olaseni, a 6-10 senior who is playing the best basketball of his career, would not have his minutes reduced after missing three practices.
The loss of his father, Olaseni said, "is going to be in my mind all season. Obviously, it's good to get back with the guys."
UP NEXT: IOWA (8-3) vs. NORTHERN IOWA (9-1)
• Specifics: 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the second game of the Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines
• Television: Big Ten Network
• Notable: Saturday's game has been announced as a sellout. ... Iowa and UNI have split their previous four meetings. ... Iowa's Josh Oglesby and UNI's Wes Washpun were teammates at Cedar Rapids Washington. Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff and UNI's Taylor Olson were teammates at Cedar Rapids Jefferson.