Jarrod Uthoff’s roundabout journey to the NBA will have to include free agency.
The former Iowa Hawkeye star went undrafted Thursday, a mild surprise after many projections had him as a mid-second round pick.
“Jarrod Uthoff has a bizarre game that almost seems hard to place in the NBA,” explained Adi Joseph, a deputy editor for the Sporting News. “Will he be able to block shots at the NBA level? And if he can’t, will he be able to defend well enough in other ways? That was the worry with him. He has the size and skills, but they don’t fit a traditional or even a modern NBA role.”
Uthoff, 23, was trying to make it three years in a row that a former Hawkeye got drafted, following Devyn Marble (Orlando Magic) in 2014 and Aaron White (Washington Wizards) last year. Being drafted is no guarantee of NBA success, of course. Marble is still with the Magic; White played in Germany last winter but is still property of the Wizards.
“He can knock down shots, space the floor and I think he can hang on the defensive end,” ESPN draft expert Jay Bilas had said of Uthoff earlier in the week, predicting he would be a second-round choice. “As long as he gets with the right team, I think he can be a help to somebody.”
When 14 foreign-born players were taken in the first round of Thursday’s draft, U.S. college players like Uthoff slid down the board. He will still get a chance to play for an NBA team, however, and will get to choose that team through free agency.
Uthoff, a 6-foot-10 forward, averaged 18.9 points per game and shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range as a senior at Iowa. He also blocked 86 shots, best in the Big Ten Conference.
But it wasn’t a smooth path to Iowa City after Uthoff earned Mr. Basketball honors in Iowa in 2011 as a senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
He initially signed to play at Wisconsin, but become disenchanted with the playing style there while taking a redshirt year as a freshman. Uthoff decided to transfer back home to play in Fran McCaffery’s motion offense at Iowa, but had to sit out another year and was left with only three seasons of eligibility.
As a sophomore reserve, Uthoff averaged 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. He was third team all-Big Ten as a junior, raising his averages to 12.4 and 6.4. His senior year netted him all-American honors as the leading scorer on a Hawkeyes team that finished 22-11.