Leistikow: Unflappable Uthoff well-equipped for NBA future

Chad Leistikow

Jarrod Uthoff brings a unique skill set into the NBA Draft.

But the one you’re about to read won’t determine whether the former Hawkeye basketball star moves into Thursday’s coveted first round.

“I’ve taken several 4½-hour flights,” Uthoff says of his recently completed pre-draft itinerary, which included workouts with 16 of the NBA’s 30 teams. “I kid you not, I stare at a seat for 2 hours. At least.”

He laughs because he knows it sounds ridiculous. But as he mentioned … he’s not kidding. And if you think about it, it’s actually quite impressive.

Could any of us stare straight ahead for hours without looking at a book, an iPhone or a TV screen?

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Uthoff says. “Nobody could actually do that.”

Yet that’s Uthoff — unflappable.

In a way, it’s a reflection of why he’s got a great chance of being on an NBA roster next season.

The determined Marengo native has been devoting most of his life the past two months to set the stage for what will happen in his next 10 years.

Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff dunks the ball during the Hawkeyes' game against Western Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.

In between staring at airline headrests and hotel-room walls, the 6-foot-10 forward has demonstrated he can shoot (making 75 of 100 attempts from 3-point range in front of the Boston Celtics), defend (led the Big Ten Conference in blocked shots) and take care of his body (he's up to 220 pounds, with 5.9 percent body fat).

Those are measurables scouts care about. And Uthoff has tirelessly zig-zagged the country to show them.

Here’s how a recent itinerary for Uthoff went:

  • Tuesday, workout in Philadelphia.
  • Wednesday, workout in Houston.
  • Thursday, workout in Sacramento. Fly back to Las Vegas, site of his training center.
  • Friday, fly to Detroit.
  • Saturday, work out for the Pistons, then fly to Los Angeles in advance of his 16th and final scheduled workout with the Clippers.

His agent, Adam Pensack, says Uthoff has taken the draft process more seriously than any client he’s ever had.

No wonder he needs a little do-nothing time.

“I love it, though,” Uthoff says. “You just fly around from city to city and play basketball. What more can you ask for?”

Perhaps a first-round draft spot?

That is the ultimate prize. A top-30 pick is guaranteed a two-year NBA contract. Early picks in the second round usually get one, too.

“You want to go first round or first 10 picks of the second round,” Pensack says. “After that, it’s a total crapshoot.”

There are questions about Uthoff's strength and consistency. And this is a deep draft. The 40th player this year is better than the 40th player in 2015.

Uthoff might be behind other big-name college players like Kentucky's Tyler Ulis, Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine or North Carolina’s Brice Johnson for late first-round positions.

“Getting into the 20s and 30s, man, there’s a lot of guys that I think could really have long careers,” said ESPN draft guru Chad Ford, who said Uthoff could crack the first round. “(Uthoff) is a guy who is both athletic and can shoot the ball and protect the rim. Those sorts of combinations tend to find a spot in the NBA.”

And that’s really the goal.

It matters, and yet it doesn’t, where Uthoff is chosen on Thursday.

One night won’t determine Uthoff’s professional future.

Everything he's done up to this point — even the mind-clearing, seat-staring flights — already has.

“I’ve laid it all out there,” Uthoff says. “…I’m an NBA player. So I’m not really too caught up with it. Let the cards fall where they may.”

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.