EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of preseason articles about Metro boys’ basketball teams. Next: Marion.
By Jim Ecker
Stu Ordman is a coach, not a cheerleader, so he’s not going to promote Jarrod Uthoff for ‘Mr. Basketball’ honors in Iowa this season.
“I don’t concern myself with that whatsoever,” Ordman said. “I concern myself with making him the best player I possibly can.”
There are many terrific players in Iowa this year, including a bunch in the Metro area alone, but Uthoff could be the best in the group. He’s 6-foot-8 and can run, jump, shoot, handle the ball and dunk with the best of them.
Uthoff averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds last season when the J-Hawks went 18-5 and reached the first round of the Class 4A state tournament. He worked hard during the off-season, gained weight (up to 189 pounds) and appears to have improved.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger, I’ve gotten quicker, better ballhandling,” he said. “I’m just a better all-around basketball player.”
That’s good news for Jefferson and good news for the University of Wisconsin, his new home next year. But it could be bad news for Jefferson’s opponents, starting Tuesday night at home against Clinton.
“Jarrod has worked hard to improve his strength,” Ordman remarked, “and as his strength improves, many facets of his game improve.”
Uthoff was heavily recruited this summer, but now he’s made his decision to join Wisconsin and the pressure is off.
“I think it will be a little more relaxing, because I won’t have college coaches calling me,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to playing with my team. I think we can be really, really good.
“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “I think we have a good chance of going far at state. We’re very unselfish, we pass the ball well. I think everything is going to click.”
Taylor Olson and Alec Saunders played for the varsity last year as sophomores and are back to lend a hand. Olson, a 6-footer, averaged 10.3 points. Saunders, 5-11, contributed 5.1 points.
The J-Hawks got a taste of the state tournament last year, falling to Sioux City East in the quarterfinals, 51-43.
“Playing in the Wells Fargo Arena is pretty crazy in front of all those people,” Uthoff said. “I think we’ve got that experience now. We won’t be quite as nervous this time.”
Ordman would love to worry about the state tournament in March. For now, he’s worried about Tuesday’s opener against Clinton.
He was disappointed in his team’s defensive effort in the Jamboree at Kennedy last Monday, so he’s not going to make any grand predictions.
“It’s just a whole new year,” he said. “We better improve our defense or we won’t be going anywhere. That would be No. 1. We just need to continue to improve each day.”
Ordman anticipates a stiff challenge every night.
“I think the entire Mississippi Valley Conference is just incredible,” he said. “It would be interesting to count the number of Division I players and potential Division I players.
“It should be exciting for the fans,” he said, “but the next time you see me I might be completely gray.”
Joe Kelly (6-2), Taylor Steckler (5-10), Mike Rooney (5-11), Tyler Meiborg (6-0), Alex Larson (6-2), Alec Brown (6-1), Alex Denny (6-4), Jarrod Uthoff (6-8), Nate Selberg (6-4), Alex Heying (6-4).
Tyler Hemphill (6-0), Taylor Mueller (6-2), Taylor Olson (6-0), Alec Saunders (5-11), Austin Goodell (6-0), Ryan Eivins (6-2).
Ky Kramer (6-2).
Tuesday, Nov. 30 — Clinton, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 4 — Davenport North, 2:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 10 — Iowa City High, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 11 — at Marion, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 14 — at Dubuque Hempstead, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 17 — at Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 4 — Dubuque Senior, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 7 — Iowa City West, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 11 — at Waterloo West, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 14 — at Kennedy, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 18 — at Davenport Central, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 21 — at Xavier, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 25 — at Dubuque Wahlert, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 28 — Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 1 — Cedar Falls, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 4 — at Iowa City West, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 8 — Waterloo East, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 11 — Kennedy, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 15 — Linn-Mar, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 17 — at Prairie, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21, 25, March 1 — Substate
March 9-12 — State, Des Moines