CEDAR RAPIDS — His interview skills are probably his biggest weakness right now.
It’s not that Jarrod Uthoff is disagreeable with the media or anything. He’s willing to talk to any newspaper, radio or TV reporter who asks for a minute or two, and usually does it with a smile.
It’s just that the Cedar Rapids Jefferson center doesn’t have a whole lot to say. That’s despite being a 4.0 student and the junior class president.
Maybe he’s not used to all the attention that comes with being a standout athlete, yet.
“He really does light up a room when he enters it,” said longtime Jefferson assistant coach Carey Ash. “Freshmen girls, sophomore boys … everyone likes Jarrod.”
And everyone likes Jarrod’s basketball skills.
The 6-foot-8 rail helped the J-Hawks to their first state tournament appearance since 1999, averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds. He employed a fine inside/middle-range offensive game to shoot 55 percent from the field and 80 from the free-throw line.
Uthoff was selected a first-team Class 4A all-stater last week by the Iowa Newspaper Association. He is named today the KCRG/Gazette Communications boys’ basketball area player of the year.
“I got taller,” Uthoff said, when asked if he felt he was a better player this season. “I thought I improved a lot, and I hope to improve even more next season.”
“Leaps and bounds,” Ash added. “His strength, his work ethic and just wanting to get better. He came to practice every day with a desire to get better.”
Uthoff grew from 6-foot-6 to 6-8 and is expected to grow, considering he’s the youngest member of Jefferson’s junior class at a just-turned-16. Now if he can get a little wider.
Uthoff said he weighs about 180 pounds.
“I’ve always been tall and skinny,” he said. “And I eat a lot. Just ask my mom.”
Mom and dad live in Marengo, where Jarrod attended school until last year. Familiar with several Jefferson players from AAU basketball, he decided to transfer to a school where relative Dean Uthoff starred.
The step up in competition helped garner attention from Division I colleges. Uthoff said he hopes to commit to a school this month or next.
“Sometime in the near future,” he said, noticeably uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. “Probably a couple of weeks. I don’t really have a favorite right now. That’s why this is so hard. Probably Creighton and UNI.
“Those two are definite possibilities.”