Jarrod Uthoff’s pro basketball career has been marked by change but what hasn’t changed is Uthoff’s devotion to the faith he found as a player at the University of Iowa. “I grew up Catholic but never really knew what it means to be a Christian,” Uthoff, an All-American at Iowa, said. “I knew it was important to be a Christian. I grew up with that mentality. I always believed in God. I thought … following the Ten Commandments was going to get me to heaven.”
He credits two people, his then-girlfriend now-wife Jessie, and former Iowa director of basketball operations Billy Taylor, for leading him to Christ and opening his eyes to what being a Christian means.
Iowa’s Mr. Basketball in 2011 as a senior at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, Uthoff (pronounced You-hoff) began his college career at the University of Wisconsin. After a redshirt season in 2011–12, he played briefly during the 2012–13 season but transferred to Iowa mid-season. Uthoff paid his own way to play for the Hawkeyes but had to sit out much of the 2012–13 season because of NCAA transfer rules.
During that time, he dedicated himself to basketball and his studies in economics.
“I wasn’t the party type. I didn’t go out. I hung out with (Jessie). It was basketball and academics,” said Uthoff.
Through conversations about faith with Jessie, Taylor and others on the Iowa basketball staff, Uthoff learned “what Christianity really is” and became a believer in Jesus.
He also earned honors on the court and off. His senior season he was second team All-American, first-team All-Big 10, All-Big 10 Defensive team and Academic All-American of the Year for Men’s Division 1 basketball with a 3.42 grade point average.
Uthoff signed a multiyear contract with the Dallas Mavericks in March 2017 and played in nine games, averaging 4.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and one assist. He was traded in June of that year to the Houston Rockets and waived a month later. In September he was signed by the Indiana Pacers but was released in October. He now plays for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, an Indiana Pacers affiliate in the NBA’s G-League, the official minor league for the NBA. The 6-foot-9-inch power forward has averaged 12.7 points, 6.87 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.03 blocks during the 2017–18 season.
The moves have not discouraged him, he said.
“It’s been a wonderful ride, I tell you that much. I have enjoyed every bit of it because every place I have been I have learned something new,” said Uthoff, 24. Uthoff’s strength is versatility on both ends of the court. He is able to space the floor on offense, attack the rim and pass at the same time. On defense he can guard multiple positions.
Dallas center/power forward Nerlens Noel said of Uthoff, “He spreads the floors, shoots the ball. He has great court awareness, great love for the game. He is a good asset to have.” Noel, who played at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, also called Uthoff “one of the most humble kids” he has known.
“I think he is very gracious, very appreciative of everything. He works very hard. He has a great spirit with him. Being around the right guys who are good guys is very contagious for a young team. To have a great group of a young core continues to build (the team),” Noel said.
Uthoff said he still enjoys the game tremendously.
“It’s nice to go out and play, run up and down the court. A lot of time in the NBA young guys don’t get a chance every day. You relish the opportunity,” he said.
He also says his spiritual life is better than ever. He and Jessie read the Bible together, and Uthoff said he relies on his faith to navigate pro basketball waters.
“I am finding new things about myself and continue to grow,” he said. “You try to live with a Christ-like consciousness and unconditional love. You play for the glory of God and for Jesus. Obviously He died on the cross for our sins and made it possible for us to go to heaven. He means everything.”