IOWA CITY, Iowa - Excitement has been building for Iowa's 2013-14 basketball season since the Hawkeyes reached the NIT Championship game in early April. Nobody has been anticipating the new campaign tipping off any more than Jarrod Uthoff, however.
The redshirt sophomore from Cedar Rapids sat out his true freshman year at Wisconsin before transferring to Iowa before last season. NCAA rules regarding switching schools sidelined him for '12-13.
Save summer leagues and a European trip in August, the 6-foot-9, 208-pound forward last played competitively during the winter of 2011 as a Cedar Rapids Jefferson senior.
"I've been looking forward to this first game for quite some time now," Uthoff said of Iowa's Nov. 8 season-opener against UNC-Wilmington. "It's nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Uthoff has been relegated to practice player during his first two years of college. He worked to learn the Badgers' system in '11-12 and then was tutored in the Iowa attack last year. He said he fit more comfortably into the latter approach.
"It's fantastic," Uthoff said. "Getting up and down in transition, being able to play inside out, I love the open motion. Everything about it is just great."
Uthoff offers Iowa a versatile forward that can contribute all over the court.
"He's going to play a lot," Hawkeye Coach Fran McCaffery said. "He's a really good player. He can score, he can rebound, he can block shots, he's tough, he's physical, he's a team player, he understands how to play, understands how to win. So those kind of guys have to be on the floor.
"Now, again, how many minutes exactly? Well, that's going to differ game to game, but he's going to play. He deserves to play."
Despite being out of the action, Uthoff used the last two seasons to improve.
"I've gotten stronger, which has been a focus for me throughout my career," he said. "I've really worked hard on my ball handling. I think that's improved a lot. My shooting also has improved."
Uthoff has grown up personally since leaving high school. He lived a very public life through his controversial exit from Madison.
"I'm anxious to get it behind me but it's helped me mature in a lot of ways just in life in general," Uthoff said.
The Hawkeyes travel to Wisconsin on Jan. 5 in a game televised on the Big Ten Network. The Badger students will be on winter break but you might expect many of them to make it back to Madison for this one.
"I didn't really pay attention," Uthoff said with a large smile on his face. "It's just another game."
If you watch the below video, you'll see that the above comment comes with Uthoff's tongue in his cheek: