The Toronto Raptors brought Iowa senior Jarrod Uthoff to training camp because the 23-year-old might just be more NBA ready than a younger prospect and the confidence in his abilities was based on three rapidly improving seasons with Iowa where the 6’9 stretch-four forward was firing up over five threes a game and averaging 18.9 points last year.
Uthoff didn’t make the Raptors, but he has found a home with the NBA D-League Mississauga Raptors 905 where he tied his season high in points at 16 in the team’s first game back after Christmas.
“Uthoff’s been really good man,” 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse responded to Pro Bball Report. “He’s open to knowing the things he has to do to get better. I took him to lunch one day and he’s ready to take over this thing and I love that attitude.
“He’s getting better. I am watching him get better right in front of our eyes. He’s a guy we can go to. He’s a guy we can drop it to and say go to work.”
Uthoff has already improved since college. A 38.2 percent college three-point shooter last year, he’s hitting over 54 percent of his NBA-range threes with the 905 and he’s bringing defense and rebounding to Mississauga as well.
“He’s a really good defensive rebounder, offensive rebounder too,” Stackhouse said.
Almost a steal and a block to go with 4.6 rebounds and 7.3 points in just 20.1 minutes over his first 16 games this season.
“It’s in my nature to do everything,” Uthoff told Pro Bball Report. “That’s just who I am. When I play, I try to play hard every possession and that includes playing defense, rebounding, offense, moving the ball and making the right plays. My game will never be one-dimensional.”
Stackhouse can’t always play him the minutes Uthoff deserves because of players being sent down from Toronto, but that’s something everyone in Mississauga knew they’d have to just accept and relationship between the coaching staff and the players has been strong.
“The biggest change for me has been just understanding the NBA system,” Uthoff said. “Every rookie has to go through it and that’s where coach Stackhouse and the coaching staff really comes in teaching us the game of basketball. I think they have done a wonderful job and we are taking steps forward.”
In the end, the skill that caught the Raptors attention and the skill that will get him a 10-day contract in the NBA later this season will be his three-point shooting. The stretch-four that can play a bit of defense and grab a few boards is the hot commodity in the NBA these days and Uthoff knows it.
“If I can improve on one aspect of my game, than maybe I should focus on being a stretch-four,” Uthoff concluded. “That will improve my game overall.
“It (the three-ball) feels pretty good right now. It fells pretty comfortable.
“Throughout the year, you are definitely going to see me shoot more and more (threes).”
This is a young man who believed he was ready for the NBA during training camp and has wanted to be the go-to-guy in Mississauga. He doesn’t lack for confidence and that could go a long ways when he finally gets his chance – and he will get a chance – to show off what he can do in an NBA game.