The Germany native has scored 14 points in 41 minutes in the Hawkeyes' last three games. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
MADISON, Wis. – That 6-foot-8 freshman Dom Uhl is having a more prominent role for the Iowa basketball team isn't considered a surprise. That it's happened this fast might be.
As the trust level in Uhl from coach Fran McCaffery has gone up, so has his playing time.
"He trusts me and believes in me," Uhl said shortly after getting the longest run of his young Big Ten Conference career — 20 minutes of action in 25th-ranked Iowa's 82-50 loss to No. 6 Wisconsin before a raucous Kohl Center crowd.
At one point vs. Wisconsin, Uhl was leading Iowa in points and shot attempts. That underscores how much the rookie's impact has grown, considering he was a bit player against previous marquee opponents — four minutes vs. Texas, two vs. Syracuse, four vs. Northern Iowa.
"He's really smart and he's skilled, and I think what you're seeing is a guy that is figuring out the complexity of the game in this league in terms of physicality," McCaffery said. "And so he's playing a little differently now."
Perhaps Uhl's first big "wow" moment of his Iowa career came three games ago at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Minnesota was tearing into Iowa's 17-point second-half lead, and Uhl entered after Jarrod Uthoff picked up his third foul.
It was 59-53 Hawkeyes with about 10 minutes remaining when Uhl smoothly drained a 3-pointer from the wing to stop the Gophers' momentum. Uhl's five points and three rebounds turned out to be key as the Hawkeyes would hang on in a nail-biter 77-75.
Four days later in a big 76-67 win against Ohio State, Uhl dazzled the home crowd with a sweet baseline reverse lay-in as the shot clock wound down. Afterward, McCaffery regretted not playing Uhl more than the 12 minutes that produced five points.
Uhl, a native of Frankfurt, Germany, showed an athleticism during his high school days in New Jersey that had McCaffery excited to get him to Iowa City.
"He was always kind of a finesse guy, move it on, drive and kick. But he's playing a little more smash-mouth, which is what he's going to have to do, and he's good enough to do that," McCaffery said. "And he's only going to get better, because he's going to get stronger."
Uhl will have a chance to play a bigger role next season, after Iowa loses 6-9 Aaron White and 6-10 Gabe Olaseni from the frontcourt.
Uhl said the thing that has improved the most since arriving on campus is his outside shot. He gave props to assistant coach Andrew Francis for working with him. And that's led to more minutes, more experience and more confidence for what's ahead.
"I definitely feel comfortable," Uhl said. "It's definitely good to get more minutes."