Jok says sitting out was best for team

Mark Emmert

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Peter Jok knew he needed to take some time away from basketball when he watched himself on film.

“I wasn’t moving that well. I felt like I was limited,” Iowa’s senior guard said after watching his team beat Rutgers without him Tuesday. “I wasn’t really productive where the team needs me to be productive. I felt like I was kind of cheating the team by playing hurt and not really producing. I felt like they’d be better without me right now.”

Iowa guard Peter Jok (14) has sat out two games to let a sore back heal. He may return Sunday.

Jok, the leading scorer in the Big Ten Conference at 21 points per game, took the past two games off to let his aching back and shoulder rest. He has been working on his core strength, doing stretching exercises and getting massages in the meantime and feels like he may be ready to return Sunday when the Hawkeyes host Nebraska.

Iowa routs Rutgers to net its first road win in style

His coach, Fran McCaffery, said just that after Tuesday’s 83-63 win. McCaffery said he expects Jok back in the starting lineup, before pausing and adding: “God willing.”

That was just what Jok wanted to hear.

“That’s the plan, if he says so,” Jok said with a smile. “I want to play, but just taking my time. I feel good right now but we’ll see how I feel in the next few days.”

The Hawkeyes won both games without Jok by double digits, displaying fantastic ball movement and deploying 10 or 11 players. No one played more than 29 minutes in either contest. Jok watched from the bench and was animated whenever his young teammates made good plays.

“You’ve got to support the team when I’m not out there,” he said. “I’d rather be out there.

“They need me healthy. (Sitting out) was a decision that the trainer made and I was happy for it, and had to go with it.”

Where Hawkeyes stand at halfway point

Jok hasn’t spent his days focusing merely on basketball, however. On Sunday, he took to his Instagram account to share his thoughts on President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. He said he wasn’t really paying attention to the issue until his older brother, Dau, started talking to him about it. The Joks came to the United States as refugees from Sudan after their father was killed. Peter was 3 at the time.

“When I read what it really meant, it really touched me,” Jok said of the executive order, which temporarily barred citizens from seven countries and refugees from entering the U.S. “I felt like I’m a leader in my community so being someone to speak up to it, it means a lot to the people in my community.”

Jok is a citizen and so unaffected by the order, though he said he knows others who are. He said he’s not afraid to travel anywhere.

“I’m just praying for the people who are affected by it and I just hope it gets reversed,” Jok said.

It’s always tricky for an athlete to speak out about current events. Criticism inevitably follows. Jok said he was aware of that, but stands by his decision.

“I’m not really talking about politics. I just had to say my opinion,” he said.