'Prevailing feeling' is Peter Jok will return to Hawkeyes

Chad Leistikow
Iowa's Peter Jok answers questions after a Big Ten Tournament loss to Illinois on March 10. Jok averaged 16.1 points a game as a junior.

Peter Jok and Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery went on offense Thursday, providing fresh comments and full transparency in the junior guard’s decision to take advantage of a new NCAA rule that allows him to participate in the NBA draft evaluation process this spring without losing college eligibility.

Jok issued a statement through the university, while McCaffery jumped on the phone to take questions from a handful of beat reporters. They chose to speak out beyond the news that emerged Wednesday to make sure this is clear: Jok will return to Iowa for his senior season, unless he — as McCaffery put it — “knocks it out of the park” in front of NBA franchises in the next few months.

The most important piece to take from Jok’s five-sentence statement was this: “For me, this whole process is for experience to see how it all works and then return to work on my game.”

He added, “If it’s not the right time for me to make the move to the NBA, I’m excited about returning and leading our team next season.”

The second-team all-Big Ten Conference guard does not appear on any mock NBA drafts, and he’s not listed among NBAdraft.net’s top 50 juniors, let alone all the other freshmen, sophomores, seniors and foreign players who will be vying for the coveted first round in the June 23 NBA draft. It's important to remember that only the first-rounders (top 30) are guaranteed money. Pick No. 31 is guaranteed $0.

Part of the benefit to athletes who don’t hire an agent (which Jok won’t) under the new NCAA rule is that they can get a full evaluation and recommendation from scouts. Jok may or may not get an NBA Combine invitation (held May 11-15). Either way, he could workout for an NBA team and would have until May 25 to withdraw his name from the draft.

“They tell you, ‘Hey, you’re going to get drafted in the first round. Hey, you’re going to get drafted in the second round. Hey, you’re not going to get drafted,’ ” McCaffery said Thursday. “They tell you unequivocally what’s going to happen, so now you have the information that you need so that you don’t have all these guys making mistakes, putting their names in and they can’t go back to school and they’re washed out of the D-League in a couple years."

McCaffery added of Jok, "The prevailing feeling is he’ll come back and go through it next year, and be in a better position to handle it next year.”

There are only two rounds in the NBA draft. Second-rounders often wind up playing overseas (as former Hawkeye Aaron White did after being chosen 49th by the Washington Wizards) for six-figure salaries. But Jok wouldn’t leave Iowa for anything but the NBA, so if he were to get a mid-second-round grade (which even at this point seems like a stretch), he would almost certainly come back to Iowa.

“If you’re asking what I think,” McCaffery said under that second-round scenario, “I don’t think he would go, and I don’t think he should go. And that’s what I would tell him.”

Jok has emerged as a star at Iowa, averaging 16.1 points a game as a junior. The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder owns one of the smoothest jump shots in the Big Ten. He has improved on defense, but needs to get better.

He’s always had talent, from his days at Des Moines Roosevelt and West Des Moines Valley, but a knee injury in high school slowed his recruitment and his progress.

McCaffery stuck with Jok then, when other college programs bailed, and does now.

“I would advise him what I think is in his best interest, because I love the kid,” McCaffery said. “I want what’s best for him. And I would tell him the truth.”

Jok’s degree is important to him and his family, and he’ll be the bona fide Hawkeye star next year if he returns. Iowa's four other starters off a 22-11 team were seniors.

“If he comes back, I hope he leads the Big Ten in scoring,” McCaffery said. “And that’s going to be my plan.”

Peter Jok's full statement, issued Thursday

“I would like to take advantage of the opportunity that is now presented to underclassmen in going through the process of obtaining input from NBA personnel so that I can make an informed decision about my future. For me, this whole process is for experience to see how it all works and then return to work on my game. 

“It’s comforting having the support of coach (Fran) McCaffery and staff. Coach will continue to be a valuable resource for me during this process. If it’s not the right time for me to make the move to the NBA, I’m excited about returning and leading our team next season.”