Peter Jok must improve defense, ball-handling to reach NBA

Mark Emmert

Be his team’s primary scoring option. Guard the opposing team’s best wing player.

Handle the basketball more without turning it over. Show enough stamina to do all of that for 36 minutes per game.

Be the Big Ten Conference's player of the year. Be selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.

It’s an ambitious set of goals that guard Peter Jok has laid out for himself in his senior year at Iowa. If he achieves the first five, he’ll undoubtedly hear his name called in the 2017 first round. He’d also become the best player in the Fran McCaffery era.

Jok’s return to the Hawkeyes roster, which he claimed was never in question, became official Friday when he withdrew his name from June’s NBA Draft after one promising workout with the New Orleans Pelicans and conversations with several other teams.


Iowa guard Peter Jok reacts after hitting a three-pointer during a game against Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2015. (Tork Mason/Freelance)

“I’m going to use him in a way that will showcase him,” McCaffery said. “I’m going to give him the ball more on top, on the wing. We (will) run plays for him that are not baseline runners or down-screens or screen the screener exclusively. There’ll be ball-screen action, opportunities for him to score with space and to go one-on-one, and for you to see all the incredibly hard work he’s put in that’s going to benefit him and expand his game.

“He’s all-in, and we’re thrilled that he’s all-in.”

Peter Jok must improve defense, ball-handling to reach NBA

Jok, an accomplished spot-up shooter, averaged 16.1 points per game as a junior and was second-team all-Big Ten. But he played only 27.7 minutes per game and was asked to do so much offensively that he didn’t really have a chance to show what a strong defender he is, McCaffery said.

That part of his game needs to be evident if he’s going to be a first-round pick.

“What you’re going to look and see next year is a guy who’s in phenomenal shape, that’s physically the strongest he’s ever been in his life and will sustain the ability to be an impact player on both ends of the floor,” McCaffery said. “He can guard off the dribble, he can fight through screens. He’s a tough kid.”

At 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, Jok seemed excited to put his stamp on what will be a young Hawkeyes team. He is the unquestioned leader, now that Jarrod Uthoff has graduated and may become a first-round NBA selection himself.

The offense will run through Jok. Opposing defenses will have him firmly in their sights.

Jok wants to show that he is a much improved ball-handler. That’s what NBA teams told him they want to see. He needs to prove that he can create his own shot.

“It’s up to me to improve in those spots to get to the next level,” Jok said. “I’m going to try to play point guard all summer, too, whatever we do.”

His future isn’t as a traditional point guard, of course. But in Iowa’s offense, everyone needs to be able to bring the ball upcourt and get the motion started, even if the ball ultimately usually winds up back in Jok’s hands.

As for McCaffery, Jok said the more vocal his coach is, the better.

“I want him to yell at me, to coach me to be a better player,” Jok said.

Maybe even the best in the Big Ten.