Brown: Iowa's Uthoff looks to improve at Nike camp

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Jarrod Uthoff took out his iPad on the night before every game last season and watched a one-man show starring himself.

Swish after swish, Uthoff never missed.

It was actually a series of clips that video guy Tommy Massimino put together of Iowa's 6-foot-9 senior forward taking jump shots during the course of the season.

"I'm not saying I'm great," Uthoff said. "But I can study myself, and when I did make shots. And I can take that into consideration the next game."

It's the kind of confidence bump any shooter can use. Positive thoughts carry over. Uthoff watched those clips the night before a Jan. 13 game at Minnesota. The next night, he hit the game-winning jumper.

Everyone looks for an advantage through improvement. It's a search with no finish line. And Uthoff hopes to expand his game when he takes part in the 2015 Nike Basketball Academy starting Friday in Santa Monica, Calif.

Uthoff is one of 20 collegians invited to the camp. Some of the nation's top high school talent will also be there, along with NBA stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving.

Uthoff's game has grown under the watchful eye of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and his staff. But a new voice never hurts.

"To hear somebody else's perspective is always a good thing for your game," Uthoff said.

Uthoff sat out of Thursday's opening night of the Prime Time League after spraining his left foot playing in a two-on-two pickup game a few days earlier.

"Mike (Gesell) pump-faked, I jumped over him and landed wrong on my foot," Uthoff said.

He's resting the injury so it doesn't linger and wants to be in top form at the Nike event that will have pro scouts and NBA personnel in attendance.

But Uthoff thinks becoming a better Hawkeye — not a better NBA prospect — is the real value of the Nike opportunity.

"This isn't going to be a make-or-break moment for me," Uthoff said. "If I don't have a good Nike event, I don't think it's going to be the end of the world. It could help my stock. But at the end of the day I'm worried about the upcoming season, and getting ready for that."

Uthoff is in position to become Iowa's third straight first-team all-Big Ten player, following the footsteps of Devyn Marble and Aaron White. And he'll be the Hawkeyes' go-to guy in 2015-16.

"It's a team game," Uthoff said. "I'm not concerned about that."

His college career started with two seasons of rust — a redshirt season at Wisconsin and then another one at Iowa after transferring. He played tentative off the bench as a sophomore, but started all 34 games as a junior and was second on the team in both scoring (12.4 points) and rebounding (6.4). His 54 three-pointers were a team high.

Uthoff weighed 175 pounds as a senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson, where was named Iowa's Mr. Basketball in 2011. He weighed 205 pounds at the end of last season.

He's 220 now, and feels great with the extra weight.

"You're never happy, never satisfied, you always want to get better," Uthoff said. "You always think you can do better. But at this rate I think I've done pretty well for myself."

The Nike camp will offer more feedback, and open the door to improvement.

And who knows, maybe give him a confidence boost just like those video clips of swish after swish.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.