NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa – Jarrod Uthoff’s mellow personality is not built to waltz into Iowa City and immediately become big man on campus.
Taking his time is his prerogative, and that’s good, because after redshirting last season at Wisconsin and following a messy divorce from Bo Ryan and the Badgers’ men’s basketball program, Uthoff will have to sit out all next season for the Hawkeyes.
Patience is a virtue for the 2011 Iowa Mr. Basketball from Cedar Rapids Jefferson, but he was elated just to be back on the court, feeling at home for his first taste of the Prime Time League.
“It’s a long time coming. It’s really nice to get back playing because I haven’t played a game in a long time,” Uthoff said. “I was really nervous to begin with, because working out on your own is a lot different than being in an intense environment like this and playing Big Ten competition.”
Through three Prime Time games, Uthoff is averaging 11.0 points – shooting 57.7 percent from the floor – and 10.0 rebounds. Most of the lanky forward’s minutes have been part of a tree-like lineup, alongside center Adam Woodbury and forward Zach McCabe.
Uthoff won’t become an official Hawkeye until Aug. 20, when he enrolls in classes. He already has his list of priorities for the upcoming winter.
“I need to put on a lot more muscle, work on my basketball skills every day, and push the guys every day in practice,” Uthoff said.
Asked at I-Club functions earlier this summer who’s emerged as the group leader in offseason workouts, head coach Fran McCaffery resolutely attached that label to Eric May, his only senior on next year’s roster.
May fought a losing battle to a back strain and spasms throughout the second half of his junior year, which began so promisingly with 46 points in his first three games. May was never shut down for the season, but the Dubuque Wahlert product lost his starting spot Jan. 26 and failed to log more than 12 minutes in any game thereafter.
The athletic May feels confident he can return to his style of basketball, feeling 100 percent healthy now.
“My body feels good. I’m in good shape. I think those extra workouts with coaches helps,” May said Sunday. “Yeah, it was a battle every day. But I learned through it. I’m going to take what I learned and use it this year to affect the team.”
The injury was one he sustained in high school. While the rest of the team is emphasizing weights, May spends his time stretching, enhancing his mobility and flexibility.
May’s playing role is unclear going forward, but determination isn’t a shortcoming by any stretch.
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“We’ve got a lot of talent. We need leadership on the court. And I’m going to bring that, doing whatever I’ve got to do,” May said. “If it’s rebounding, shooting, whatever, I intend on being on the court and making a difference.”
Even wearing a solid black t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, former Hawkeye Matt Gatens couldn’t divert the love from a packed house of interested spectators at the North Liberty Community Center, dishing out high-fives and accepting well wishes Sunday.
Gatens was invited to play for the Phoenix Suns’ summer league squad, and plans to leave for the desert next week.
Forward Melsahn Basabe and guard Devyn Marble, good buddies on and off the court, each look a little different than they did in March.
Basabe, who normally plays with a shaved head, is sporting a faux-hawk. Meanwhile, Marble is channeling his inner Kevin Durant, showing up to post-exhibition interviews Sunday wearing a backpack and non-prescription hipster glasses.