IOWA CITY, Ia. – The 7,140 fans who came to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for Friday night’s Black and Gold Blowout saw Gabe Olaseni try to emulate Michael Jordan with a flying dunk from the free-throw line. And they saw very little defense.
“It was like the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Maybe worse. We had one job description. No one gets hurt. We made it.”
Just as impressive as Olaseni’s dunk and all the fan-friendly bells and whistles was the play of forward Jarrod Uthoff. The 6-foot-9 sophomore seems to fit right in with all the returning pieces McCaffery has in place.
“They welcomed me, right from the beginning,” Uthoff said. “It’s been a fantastic experience. I can’t thank my teammates enough.”
Uthoff, a former Iowa Mr. Basketball at Cedar Rapids Jefferson and a transfer from Wisconsin, spent last season getting to know his teammates and learning the offense.
“He’s fit in, in every way,” McCaffery said. “He’s got a game that’s perfectly suited for our style of play. And he’s playing with confidence now. For him, that’s going to be the key.”
McCaffery said that Uthoff was tentative when the team played six games in Europe in August. But that dress rehearsal was valuable.
“I think it’s great he got those games under his belt, because he’s really been aggressive since we got back,” McCaffery said. “That’s what we want him to do. He has the green light.”
Uthoff has been playing small forward and power forward. He said he is comfortable in either spot.
“I’ve been shooting it pretty well,” said Uthoff, when asked about his strengths. “Other than that, it’s just versatility. Being able to do different things and exploit the defense in any way that I can.”
His ability to shoot from the perimeter and put the ball on the floor bring something to this team. After redshirting the past two seasons, Uthoff has the itch to play for real again.
“I can’t wait,” Uthoff said of the Nov. 8 season opener against North Carolina-Wilmington. “It’s been a long time coming.”
McCaffery said the fans, like the 7,140 on hand Friday, have adopted his team.
“They appreciate how they compete, and appreciate their talent,” McCaffery said. “We’re not perfect, but we have a good team. And everyone wants to see how good we’re going to be.”