Jarrod Uthoff always has taken the game of basketball very seriously.
He has spent hours in the gym, honing and refining his skills. He claimed he did not even have cable television or internet access at home during his senior year at Iowa. He didn’t want anything to distract him from his mission.
And it sounds as though the Hawkeyes star has taken that approach to new levels in the past two months while preparing for tonight’s NBA draft.
Uthoff basically has been on a two-month business trip, operating out of an apartment just off the Las Vegas strip. On the days when he’s actually in Vegas, he is in bed by 8:30 p.m. and up at about 6 a.m. ready to go through two workouts a day with other draft hopefuls at Impact Basketball.
He hasn’t set foot in a single casino or any of the other guilty pleasures Vegas has to offer. He’s not willing to gamble that some NBA team will overlook what he has to offer.
“I go from my apartment to the training facility to the airport,” Uthoff said.
He has spent a lot of time in airports. After spending five days in Chicago at the NBA combine, he has done individual workouts for 16 different teams. Last Thursday he was in Sacramento. On Saturday he was in Detroit. On Monday he worked out for the Clippers in Los Angeles.
“I’ve gone coast to coast quite a few times,” Uthoff admitted, noting that this business-like approach is the only way he knows.
“That’s how I’ve been with basketball ever since I was 8 or 9 years old,” he added. “I’ve taken the same approach, do whatever I can to improve any way I can.”
His agent, Adam Pensack, said Uthoff has worked as hard as anyone he’s ever managed and feels the Iowa star has a unique combination of skills that makes him an intriguing prospect.
He’s not alone in that opinion.
“He’s a unique player because you don’t find a lot of guys at 6-9 who shoot the ball like he shoots it, but also has this ability to be a shot blocker,” ESPN draft expert Chad Ford said on a teleconference last week. “And one thing I think is appealing for him is that his ability to guard other perimeter-oriented 4s in the league because of his ability to move laterally and to get out on the floor.”
All of that was on display last winter as Uthoff was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick and was mentioned on several All-American teams. He finished second in the Big Ten in scoring at 18.9 points per game and led the league in blocked shots.
There are only two red flags with the former Cedar Rapids Jefferson star: His age and his weight.
At 23, Uthoff is among the oldest players in the draft. NBA scouts these days seem fixated on 19- and 20-year-olds.
“That surprises me but at the same time I know it’s there,” Uthoff said. “What are you going to do about it? You just deal with it because you can’t control it.”
Another ESPN commentator, Jay Bilas, said Uthoff may not have as large an upside as younger players.
“I think everybody kind of thinks they know who Jarrod is right now and I’m among those,” Bilas said. “You’ve watched him for a period of time, and you’ve got a feel for who he is. That doesn’t mean that he’s not going to continue to get better ... It’s just these other guys have larger development curves because they’re further behind on them.”
Pensack pointed out that in recent years an average of only one 23-year-old per year gets picked in the first round of the draft.
“But Jarrod has such a unique combination of skills and he’s been doing what he does in all these workouts,” Pensack said. “Maybe he’ll be the one this year.”
Uthoff’s physicality may be a bigger issue.
“He obviously needs to add a lot of strength, and if you’re thinking about trying to play him on the block, he’s going to have a real problem in the NBA,” Ford said.
Uthoff said he has been downing protein shakes after almost every workout in an effort to add bulk and has managed to boost his weight up slightly, but he’s still only about 220 pounds.
“It’s tough when you’ve got all these workouts,” he said. “You’re traveling around, you can’t really eat airport food so it’s tough but I’ve managed to gain whatever is possible.”
Where he will end up being picked is strictly a guessing game.
“There’s just a ton of variables, which makes it very unpredictable,” Uthoff said. “At the end of the day, I’m confident I’m an NBA player and I’m comfortable I’m going to make it.”
Most of the mock drafts have Uthoff slotted into the second round although a few don’t have him being selected at all.
Ford said he thinks Uthoff may begin to be looked at near the end of the first round and he doesn’t think he will last far into the second round.
“I think there’s teams like the Pacers, for example, that really liked him for a long time and see him as a good fit for what they do,” he said. “I don’t think it’s likely he gets drafted there (at No. 20), but if he went that high, that wouldn’t shock me. And then he’s got several more spots in the 20s, and again, he’s a guy who I think once he gets to the 30s, he doesn’t get out of the 30s.”
Uthoff isn’t sure where he will watch the draft or if he will watch at all. Remember, he doesn’t have cable.
He may just sit back and wait for a phone call. And try to relax.
“It’s a huge point in your career and where life is going to take you is really at stake,” he said. “But you’ve got to keep it all in perspective. Things happen for a reason.”